The busiest two years of the 20-year Wynyard Quarter regeneration are now in full swing.
Thirteen sites are live, with two office buildings - one new, the other incorporating heritage aspects of an existing structure - and two big new apartment blocks under construction.
The new ASB Waterfront Theatre is nearly finished, construction of the $200 million Park Hyatt will soon begin and Panuku Development Auckland's upgrades to Madden St and Pakenham St are under way.
"It's a lot like building Queen St, or a significant part of the city," explained Panuku major projects director Daniel Khong of the area where four tower cranes are already swinging but permits are in place for a total of seven. "It's enormously complicated."
Up to 1000 construction workers are on sites, concentrated now in Wynyard Central - a 3.8ha block in the middle of the quarter bordered by Pakenham St West, Halsey St and Madden St where $1 billion of work is on.
That central area has 10 development sites and Khong, construction liaison project manager Anna Wallace and Precinct Properties' senior development manager Alain McKinney were among those who led a tour of the area to show an extraordinary level of activity.
Of the 13 live sites, Khong said seven were in Wynyard Central.
"For the next two years, this is the peak of the Wynyard Quarter," he said.
Although the buildings are all on Auckland Council-owned leasehold ground, an extremely benign approach has been taken to rents. Tenants "pre-pay" the ground rent for up to 125 years in advance as part of their up-front occupation deal, avoiding the nightmare shock of five, seven or 21-year rent reviews, as happens in other parts of Auckland such as the Viaduct Basin, Princes Wharf and the 110 properties surrounding Cornwall Park.
Basement and lower-level ground works are under way at Precinct's new Building 5A, a new office block with two levels underground and five upper levels. That will be an innovation hub, which Precinct described as "the hot address for companies on the fast track to success, a place of creativity, innovation, sustainability and style. Businesses here will be surrounded by like-minded companies in a state-of-the-art 46,000sq m campus-style precinct".
McKinney said construction work at 5A would reach ground level by July and practical completion would be achieved by July next year.
The ex-Southern Spars character building has been re-named Mason Brothers Building, taking its name from the original business there in the 1920s. Structural steel additions mean a single-level warehouse has been raised to three levels. Concrete floors have been poured and precast panels installed.
Architects Warren and Mahoney not only designed the changes but will also move on to the ground floor and level one. A "ship in a bottle" approach has been taken to the design of this structure - an office building suspended within the walls of the original old building.
Major character elements have been retained such as the facades and structural beams and in a clever twist, a public laneway will run between the office block and the original walls.
No carparks are being developed on that site, but 37 will be provided on a neighbouring site.
Khong said a firm of engineers was examining renting the top floor of the Mason building, while project managers were considering other space.
That could mean the building is filled with people working in the construction sector, he said.
Khong, an architect with an MBA and originally from Melbourne, leaves Panuku in July to take up a new role in Sydney.
• Under construction in Wynyard Central:
• Building 5A by Precinct Properties.
• Mason Brothers Building refurbished/extended.
• $200m Park Hyatt construction starting soon.
• Two apartment blocks by Willis Bond & Co.
• Madden/Pakenham St upgrades.