Kumutoto development on Wellington waterfront gets green light

The Willis and Bond & Co building granted consent for the Wellington waterfront.
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The Willis and Bond & Co building granted consent for the Wellington waterfront.

A major development on Wellington's inner city waterfront has been given the tick by the Environment Court.

The decision comes after years of debate about the site, with the last design thrown out by the court because it was  out of scale with its surroundings.

While applicants Wellington City Council and Willis Bond & Co still have to meet conditions, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the project had basically been given the "green light".

Willis Bond & Co managing director Mark McGuinness says a major devolopment on the Wellington waterfront is now good to go.
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Willis Bond & Co managing director Mark McGuinness says a major devolopment on the Wellington waterfront is now good to go.

The Kumutoto Precinct development will include a five-storey commercial building on Waterloo Quay with a walkway through to the water on the other side.

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PricewaterhouseCoopers will relocate its Wellington office into the new building, and has the naming rights with the building to be known as the PwC Centre.

Part of the ground floor will be used for retail, cafe, and exhibition spaces while other parts will have a "creative business hub", the court's decision says.

To the southeast of the 22.4 metre high building will be a "pocket park" with a deck going down to the water's edge. That is despite the last Environment Court ruling advising that any building on the site should not be more than 22m.

Two bridges will be built connecting the "tug wharf" to the waterfront promenade.

Whitmore Plaza will be developed south of the building as a "pedestrian-orientated area"  with timber platforms used as seats, for art installations, and performances.

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Wade-Brown said she was pleased there would be an "attractive building instead of an asphalt car park" at the site.

It would create an attractive space near the historic ferry building and provide shelter without blocking views down Whitmore St, on the opposite side of Waterloo Quay heading towards Lambton Quay.

"I'm sure the building will be award-winning and its construction will provide welcome jobs too.'"

The landscaped park - referred to as "site eight" -  would mean people could enjoy harbour views.

"The new boardwalks and bridges will make the harbour more accessible."

Meanwhile the design was a big improvement on a previous plan for the site which had been rejected by the Environment Court because it was too tall and out of keeping with its surroundings.

But the new design is not without its critics.

When Wellington City Council approved the new building in 2014, Waterfront Watch president Mary Munro told councillors it was "a horse float" and the land needed to be kept in public ownership.

The decision last year granted Willis Bond & Co a 125-year lease on the space.

Managing director of Willis Bond & Co, Mark McGuinness said the building and its public spaces and "colonnaded walkways" were designed as an integrated precinct with other parts of the waterfront and CBD. 

In the latest decision, from the Environment Court, Judge Craig Thompson stressed the decision that resource consents should be granted was an interim and dependent on conditions being met.

Most important of these was a plan being formed for how the new five-storey building and site eight would be linked.

According to Willis Bond's website the site of the five-storey Athfield Architects-designed building will occupy "the last prime waterfront development site in the city".

Construction was expected to start in 2016 with completion in early to mid 2018.

It would be built to 180 percent of the earthquake code.

McGuinness said the conditions that now needed to be met were reasonable and he did not foresee any problems.

Willis Bond would pay its 125 lease to Wellington City Council to use the land up front.

At the end of 125 years the building and land would become owned by the council.

Till then the council would own the land and Willis Bond the building.

He was "delighted" the project would finally go ahead.

"No project on the waterfront is easy to get away - simply because of the nature of waterfront politics.

 - Stuff

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