Beds replace desks in Takapuna towers

By Wayne Thompson

The thinning ranks of Takapuna office workers enjoying their lunch beside the beach or scouting for bargains in the shops are causing concerns for its future as a business centre.

While office construction cranes are swinging above the paddocks at Smales Farm and Albany, the gaps in the North Shore's traditional core of commerce are filling up with apartment developments such as the high-rise Sentinel.

Beds rather than desks are going into Takapuna's new buildings.

Three developments alone are expected to add 300 apartments and 600 residents to the CBD population within 12 months, says North Shore City Council environmental policy and planning manager Trevor Mackie.

Developers are driving the trend because they get a higher return from residential use, Mr Mackie said in a progress report on a review of planning for CBD's future.

Land zoned for offices and shops had been lost to residential developments.

However, increasing office sector activity, which in turn supported the retailers, was a must for Takapuna.

The CBD lost 1036 office jobs between 2000 and 2005, though this was slightly offset by increased employment in retail, particularly car sales.

In the end, the total jobs lost in those five years was 759, leaving 8867 employees.

Job losses came from a small number of large employers leaving but a gradual decline in office workers seems set to continue in the short term at least.

The Sovereign insurance and investment company, with 700 employees, is moving to Smales Farm in July, saying it preferred Takapuna but it could not get a building to house a large number of employees together.

Inland Revenue will be the next to leave. It is seeking premises within North Shore City for its 700 employees.

The report says lack of accessible carparking and issues around the quality of commercial office space is said to count against Takapuna as a business location.

On the other hand, its low building vacancy rate of 4 per cent and high rents show it is highly sought after.

The report predicts the number of people living in Takapuna will double to 8000 within 15 years as apartment developments take over from low-rise buildings.

An extra 1350 households will be formed in the CBD over 15 years, possibly with one or two people to a household.

The population will be older - about three-quarters of the 4000 extra residents will be split between the 40-65-year age group and the over-65s.

The increase in the over-65 age group will be a rise of 76 per cent over 20 years.

The report says higher-density development in the CBD could ease the pressure on its leafy beach suburbs. But residential development should not be encouraged at the expense of future office projects.

Mr Mackie said the work under way aimed to obtain a clear vision of how Takapuna should look in the next 20-50 years.

Council responses could be updating District Plan rules to support the preferred role of the CBD or developing relationships with employers to find out what they needed in the area.

The council hopes to ease the parking squeeze by using its land in the CBD for a 750-space public car park.

It has made a deal to sell its land to Location group and will buy and operate the carpark in Location's proposed Merge development, which will add 105 apartments, offices and retail to the area.

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