Waterfront revamp cut down to size

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2014
Wellington waterfront
WILLIS BOND & CO

NEW VISION: The latest proposal for a building on the area of Wellington’s waterfront known as site 10. Plans for a sixth storey and rooftop garden have been done away with. Plans for a nearby shipwreck museum have also been scuppered.

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Public pressure has forced a backdown over plans for a controversial new office block on Wellington's waterfront.

The top floor and rooftop garden have been erased from sketches of a six-storey building Willis Bond & Co want to develop in an area known as site 10 within the North Kumutoto precinct.

The move follows a wave of public opposition to the 25-metre high building going ahead and warnings from the Environment Court that nothing taller than 22m should be built there. The new 5-storey design is 22.4m high.

Meanwhile, plans for a shipwreck museum on nearby site 9 have been scuppered altogether because of concerns it would fail to attract enough visitors.

A Wellington City Council committee will discuss progress on the 8-hectare slice of prime real estate between Queens Wharf and Wellington Railway Station at a meeting this week. As well as changes to sites 9 and 10 to the north, plans will be tabled for a public open space on site 8 to the south.

Things are also looking brighter for users of the waterfront's motorhome park, which will shift from site 10 to CentrePort, rather than being bowled.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the new building proposal for site 10 would have a better shot at gaining resource consent than the 25m-high version.

"It gives a lot more certainty to the project," she said. "I'm pleased that we're now fitting in with the Environment Court guidelines."

The council initially wanted to allow for buildings up to 30m high on the site, but those plans were opposed by lobby group Waterfront Watch and canned by the Environment Court in 2012.

Developers came back with a 25m-high proposal late last year, hoping to skirt around the court's recommended 22m height limit by setting the top floor back from the building's edge, making it difficult to see from ground level.

Wellington Waterfront Ltd chief executive Ian Pike said he would be surprised if the court had a problem with the building's latest incarnation being less than half a metre over the limit.

Transport and urban development committee chairman Andy Foster said the public would no longer have access to a planned garden atop the building. "For me, it's a little disappointing that we don't end up with a rooftop activity that people can go up and enjoy, but that's the decision that's been made."

Wade-Brown said international experts had looked at the proposal for a shipwreck museum - expected to cost up to $13m - and found it was unlikely to attract a big enough crowd.

"When you've got quite a lot of free museums already in the area, to have a charging one right by them perhaps wasn't the best idea."

The council would consider other locations, she said.

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- The Dominion Post

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