Bigger St Lukes would be biggest of all

By Anne Gibson

St Lukes would become New Zealand's largest mall if if Westfield NZ develops its site to the maximum.

It's indoor floor space could legally be expanded to 9.2ha, eclipsing the 7ha Sylvia Park complex in Mt Wellington.

Westfield owns much of the housing around the mall, and plans to expand to the north and east.

Derek Nolan, Westfield's lawyer at Russell McVeagh, said the maximum allowable gross floor area for Westfield's St Lukes site was 92,500sq m or 9.2ha of buildings.

Westfield could have 77,500sq m of shops, cafes and other eating places on the site as well as 15,000sq m of offices.

Mr Nolan applied to Auckland City Council for a district plan change allow the proposed expansion. On Sunday the expansion was notified and public submissions are due by May 29.

Westfield's development manager, Clive McKenzie, said the expansion could be done in stages.

The mall owner is allowed to put up buildings 20m, or about six storeys, tall. Most of the site now is low-rise.

Peter Nightingale, who lives near the mall, says the expansion would have a destructive effect on his street and bring more traffic, noise and litter. Trees would be removed and children would be unable to play in the street, he said.

Mr Nightingale has lived near St Lukes for about 30 years and shops there but expects to lose street parking. Houses would be dominated by tall concrete structures, he said. Westfield had only been able to buy key properties in his street lately, allowing the expansion, he said.

Glenda Fryer from the local community board has also vowed to fight the mall's expansion.

Westfield proposes to solve any traffic issues at an expanded St Lukes by building more than 1000 new carparks and emphasising public transport options including buses outside the centre and the Morningside Railway Station just 800m away.

Westfield's social effects assessment - a mandatory report by Taylor Baines & Associates - cited:

Traffic volumes on the surrounding streets leading to congestion, noise and pollution.

Poor use of the carparking areas.

Staff from the mall parking on the surrounding streets and shoppers parking on streets at peak times.

Difficulties with pedestrian access and safety via the footpaths and road crossings surrounding the mall.

Visual effects of a large and somewhat unwelcoming building in the shape of the current mall.

Nuisance issues like traffic and crime such as St Lukes being a hotspot for car theft and bag snatching.

Expanding the mall would allow Westfield to address some of these issues, the report said.

The world's largest shopping centre owner last month to devalued its 12 New Zealand malls by $210.8 million and some shops in its malls are vacant, although a spokeswoman has said shops were covered up while being refurbished.

Attempts to sell malls at Glenfield - devalued from $194 million to $146 million - and Pakuranga have failed and Westfield has shelved plans to develop its Downtown mall in Auckland's CBD.

Work on Westfield's expansion of 277 in Newmarket last year resulted in large-scale demolition of buildings between the existing centre and Gillies Ave. But that site has been idle for months.

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