Wellington's most desirable street is changing - and some fear it's not for the better. Oriental Pde's eclectic mix of old-time villas dating from a gentler age are gradually being subsumed by apartment blocks as developers crowd on to its prime land.
Back in the 1950s, the whole street was a low-level mix of grand homes and smaller villas, including the Seven Sisters. Now, the picture is much different, dominated by a wall of apartment blocks.
A five-storey block planned for the site of two old villas at 320 and 322 Oriental Pde was announced in December. The application, from developer Robert Donald, builder of six other apartment blocks on the parade, is before Wellington City Council.
Oriental Bay Residents Association president Colin Blair, who lives in a 100-year-old home in Hay St, said some people were concerned about where the parade was heading.
"I don't think many residents would like to see a whole row of apartment blocks right around the parade. I think there were a few bad planning decisions made back in the 1960s and 70s, which saw four or five quite tall apartment blocks go up. But people who live here now, in the main, bought after those developments."
Some of the old houses had heritage protection, but many did not. It was hard to balance people's right to develop their property with the ideal for residents who had paid good money for harbour views and sun, he said.
"The current height restriction is reasonably good, targeted to limit development where there's houses behind. [If] the backdrop is the escarpment, it's not affecting any residents."
Prominent lawyer Peter Cullen owns one of the Seven Sisters. Built in 1906, the neighbouring villas are listed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and must be protected from development.
"I suppose I've lived here 20 years," Mr Cullen said. "I've only noticed since I lived here that a lot of apartments have gone up. It's changed a lot."
They were an economic fact of life. "At some point in time it becomes economic to go upwards. That's what happens here. There are more people who want to live here than there are places to live."
It was likely the parade would be mostly apartments in future, but it would not become the Gold Coast, Mr Cullen said.
"Because of the hill behind it, you don't notice [the apartments] as you do on a beach area where there's no hill. [Then] they block the view behind and they're like artificial cliffs, just ugly."
There have been problems with apartment blocks on the bay in the past.
In 2006, a landslip came down on the back of No 342, and 18 residents had to leave their homes while the hillside was shored up.
Council urban development manager Warren Ulusele said city planners expected apartment development to increase.
They had worked out height limits for new parade buildings - higher than the norm in Wellington's residential areas - which varied depending on what was behind and around them. The lowest limit was 13m, or three storeys, and the tallest could be 34m, he said.
What the street was going to look like in the future was a major part of their work as planners, and the design of new buildings was also considered.
The parade was eclectic at the moment, but over time there would be more, taller, rectangular apartments.
- The Dominion Post
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