Battle looms for Wellington waterfront building

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2012
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Wellington looks set for another drawn-out development battle with controversial plans for a new six-storey building on the waterfront.

Wellington Waterfront will today unveil plans for an office building with an indoor public plaza where people can shelter from Wellington's weather.

If approved it would be built near Kumutoto by private developers with a lease paid to Wellington ratepayers.

But Wellington city councillors had mixed reactions to the design when briefed on it yesterday. Previous waterfront developments have sparked fierce community opposition, and a long process of appeals and court proceedings is already being predicted.

The proposed building, which would be built at site 10 – the motorhome park opposite the NZ Post building in Waterloo Quay – would be developed by the Newcrest Group.

The building would feature six floors. The top five would be office space, and 60 per cent of the ground floor would be a public plaza or "winter garden".

Surrounding outdoor areas in the Whitmore Plaza would also be developed to complete the promenade to Wellington railway station.

All waterfront buildings are required to have publicly accessible space.

Wellington Waterfront chief executive Ian Pike said the proposed public plaza would provide a different option to the bars and cafes in other buildings.

"We've elected to go with quite a different offering in this building ... This is an opportunity, in a time of economic recession, to deliver a building that's leading edge."

Though there was an over-abundance of vacant office space in Wellington, the quality of the building, which would include state-of-the-art seismic earthquake strengthening, would make it attractive to businesses, he said.

The design would now be open for public submissions before going to the council late next month for signoff.

Wellington city councillor and Waterfront board member Justin Lester said the design was a "good compromise" for an area that was currently a "concrete wasteland", though he acknowledged that some people would prefer the area to be left as public space.

However, built-environment portfolio leader Iona Pannett said the design was disappointing and would likely spark consternation, opposition and appeals.

The building was "huge" and more should be done with the public space.

"I don't think it is as iconic as it could be, and should be."

Both councillors agreed the proposal was likely to fuel opposition and follow the path of other waterfront development proposals, with long consent and court processes.

A proposed $45million Hilton Hotel on the Queens Wharf outer-T was ditched after an Environment Court process, while the $100m-to-$150m Clyde Quay Wharf apartments development at the Overseas Passenger Terminal went through a five-year process before eventually being approved by the Environment Court.

Waterfront Watch president Pauline Swann had not seen the proposed design, so could not say whether the group would oppose the development.

However, she was "shocked" the design process was under way while court proceedings over proposed waterfront development restrictions were continuing.

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The "Variation 11" district plan change sets a maximum size and height for new waterfront buildings. Developments within proposed size limits could be granted discretionary consent by the council, skipping the need for a resource consent process with public participation.

Waterfront Watch opposes public consultation being lost, and says the waterfront should not be an extension of the CBD.

Releasing a design before that process was completed was "astounding".

THE PROPOSED BUILDING

  • To be built in the Kumutoto precinct, which already houses the Meridian Building, at the site of the motorhome park.
  • Six-storey building, with office space on the top five floors.
  • Sixty per cent of the ground floor would be a public plaza overlooking the harbour, with public toilets, and food and coffee facilities.
  • Indoor plaza links to the landscaped Whitmore Plaza outside, which completes the pedestrian promenade to Wellington railway station.
  • Includes 77 underground carparks.
  • Built using seismically advanced techniques.
  • Would achieve a minimum five-star Green Star rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council.
  • Public can make submissions on the design for a month from today. The feedback, and other aspects of the proposed deal, will be considered by Wellington City Council late next month before the consent process begins.

Do you have any information about this story? Contact our reporter.
Email: katie.chapman@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @KatieChapman28

 

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