Justin Lester proposes plan to save Wellington's Jack Ilott Green
The controversial sale of Wellington's Jack Ilott Green may not need to happen if an alternative plan by Deputy Mayor Justin Lester gets the green light.
Wellington City Council is exploring development options for Jack Ilott Green – a small inner-city park off Jervois Quay – as it scrapes together $100 million to earthquake strengthen the town hall and revamp Civic Square.
It is exploring similar options for the nearby Municipal Office Building, while the Michael Fowler Centre is already on the block for developers.
But Lester believes selling its $15m leasehold interest in a nearby building and carpark on Jervois Quay instead would be a better way of raising cash.
The council-owned building is currently occupied by Tony's Tyre Service and would likely fetch a higher price than Jack Ilott Green, which the council was hoping to get at least $8m for, Lester said.
"I think claims that we'll be able to get that much money for Jack Ilott Green are pretty dubious."
Selling Jack Ilott Green would also be controversial with the public, he said. A campaign to save the park has already collected more than 8200 signatures of support and has been vigorously lobbying council to change its mind for months.
"No one really wants to get rid of green space in the CBD... we need a better solution and this one is a win-win."
Lester said he would propose the plan when the issue was next up for discussion around the city council table.
At the very least, it should be put to the public alongside a proposal for development, to see which option Wellingtonians liked best, he said.
Ian Pike, the council's city shaper manager, said he did not believe Lester's plan was the right way to go.
Jack Ilott Green was part of the development discussion because the council was keen to enliven Civic Square with cafes and shops, and selling a building down the road would not help with that aim.
The Tony's Tyre Service building was also an income-generator, and while the council recognised the social value of having an inner-city park, Jack Ilott Green was not a money-maker, Pike said.
Wendy Armitage, co-founder of the campaign to save Jack Ilott Green, said any idea that could find money for the town hall strengthening and retain the park should be given serious consideration.
Selling Jack Ilott Green would likely see a multi-storey building erected in its place, and supporters of the park felt that keeping it was the most attractive option for Civic Square, she said.
"The public has been opposing development of Jack Ilott Green for decades ... it's time they designated it a park and put an end to it."