Opening up public spaces

Public spaces were on the agenda of the March meeting of the Waitemata Local Board.

Chair, Shale Chambers was unanimously supported on his motion to ensure developers who have gained bonus floor space in return for public space are required to provide adequate signage.  Too often the public is unaware they have access to buildings and open space areas as right of ways and for enjoyment. For example I was surprised to learn that the space next to a bar in the Viaduct is available for the public to sit and enjoy their own food and beverages even though it currently appears to part of the bar area.

More controversially we considered the Skycity proposal to develop Federal Street as a pedestrian orientated shared space in return for the extension of the existing Skycity conference facilities across the airspace over Federal Street.   Auckland needs to be able to adequately host large conferences and Federal Street is in desperate need of a makeover (mainly because it was badly designed in the first place to interact with street on a human scale).

What we objected to (in a 5 – 2 vote) was the request from Skycity to consider the proposal as one package (ie Skycity demanding the airspace in return for spending $10million on the street). We were right to feel that we were being asked to make a decision on incomplete information as it emerged after the meeting that Skycity are already spending $50million on improvements including three new restaurant frontages on Federal Street. It will be interesting to see if there is support for a roof over the street once the restaurants open and people start enjoying the area in a whole new way.

The next day the Planning and Urban Design Forum chaired by Cameron Brewer recommended that the plans be explored further by Auckland Council, the Waitemata Local Board, Auckland Transport and Sky City designers.

Board acts to reclaim public spaces Media release 9 March 2011

Super City asserts public access rights NZ Herald 12 March 2011

Skycity launches plan for overbridge Auckland City Harbour News 11 March 2011

Lifting the lid on hidden spaces NZ Herald 15 March 2011

SkyCity’s expansion plans endure rough ride NZ Herald 14 March 2011