Property editor of the NZ Herald

Praise for Britomart from council's heritage adviser

Always one with an eye on history, Auckland's chief heritage boss took a hard look at the country's biggest historical building project a decade on - and liked what he saw.

George Farrant, Auckland Council's central area principal heritage adviser, praised the $1 billion Britomart scheme to restore about 20 buildings near the city's waterfront.

He has followed the project through "from day one, writing the basic rules which governed the expression of interest campaign" when developers submitted plans and establishing the blueprint for changes.

He noticed how a Herald article from late 2002 reported on an open day at the site.

"You recorded at the time my vision and aspirations for the development, and it has occurred to me that for once, my high hopes have been abundantly realised in the growing vibrancy, colour, and popularity of the precinct," Farrant said.

"It is of course to the credit of all involved that such a result which was carefully prescribed by the council, planned, and executed by Cooper and Company, has so emphatically been achieved.

"This is a good opportunity maybe to look back 10 years and celebrate."

Results of the precinct's upgrade are far more intricate, detailed and interesting than anything the council envisaged during the competition phase, he said.

"It's been handled well at the fine or micro-level and that's what makes a good city.

"There was a philosophy from the council not to be too rigid."

Rooflines are one area he takes particular delight in, noting how Britomart buildings are obvious from many of their taller neighbours.

"It's not just the facades that are important but I always made a strong point about how the roof shape should be treated."

The evacuation of High St retailers for Britomart does not overly concern him because he views that as organic growth and recalls how many areas go in and out of popularity, citing Parnell and Ponsonby.

Nor is he worried about how Britomart will look after Cooper and Company builds a series of blocks in the centre where now single-level temporary retail structure have risen. "Buildings in the central area will add to this. People look for change," he says.

Finishing the walk from Takutai Square to the Central Post Office, which was opened on November 20, 1912, Farrant told how he hand-painted new green tiles in the building's entry foyer.

These were replaced because originals were damaged. The idea was to create various shades of green to match the existing shades, he said.

Looking down from the central atrium into the Britomart walking tunnel from Queen Elizabeth II Square, Farrant points to an inconspicuous line of blue tiles. These, he said, marked the original tide line.

- NZ Herald

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