Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

Towering project sets out to redefine Auckland skyline

A new residential tower in Customs St which is set to be Auckland's biggest skyscraper. Photo / Supplied
A new residential tower in Customs St which is set to be Auckland's biggest skyscraper. Photo / Supplied

A record-breaking new skyscraper is planned for Auckland.

The Weekend Herald can reveal detailed plans for "Customs Residential" - a spectacular 50-storey building in the heart of the CBD.

At an impressive 192m, the only part of the cityscape taller than the Customs St monster would be the top of the iconic SkyTower, which stands at 328m and is the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere.

The ambitious high rise would still set a new benchmark as the tallest office or residential building in New Zealand.

The cost of the project is unknown, but plans show it is taller than both the $675 million One Mills Lane office block planned for Albert St and the $681 million Commercial Bay tower, tagged as the country's most expensive office development.

A comprehensive resource consent application, including architectural drawings and an assessment of environmental effects, has been filed with Auckland Council.

If the project gets the green light, it will redefine the Auckland skyline.

Plans obtained by the Weekend Herald reveal the new glass and steel construction is so vast architects created its distinctive wedge-shaped top as a "shading contour" - an attempt to stop the tower from plunging the neighbourhood into darkness.

"One of the key elements is how the proposed development affects matters relating to visual, shading, dominance and streetscape effects," the application says. "The height controls are designed to manage shading effect on nearby city centre public places."

It requires massive foundational work - 50 levels above ground will sit on top of five basement levels dug more than 16m down, deep enough to stack four double-decker buses.

Boasting a four-bedroom master penthouse among 221 apartments, extras such as a seventh-floor swimming pool, offices and ground floor retail would make the tower the undisputed star of a colossal Customs St redevelopment.

With a footprint the size of a block of prime CBD real estate - land valued by council at $28.6 million - three resource consent applications are being processed for the project, the council told the Herald.

The plans also propose full refurbishment of existing office building Ballantyne House and 150-year-old Auckland heritage building The White Rabbit tavern.

Ballantyne House will become a 96-suite "boutique hotel" while the historic pub will be retained, apart from a non-heritage rear annex.

The application has been created with architects Peddle Thorp and consultancy firm Tattico. One of Tattico's directors, Vijay Lala, is a former senior council planner. Mr Lala, whose name is on the consent application document, said he was "not authorised" to comment.

The documents state the project's applicant as being Shundi Customs. Companies Office records state Huojun Shao and Lijuan Zhu are the directors. Attempts to contact them were not successful.

A council representative said it is processing the consents and a planners report is being prepared, while "consent decisions will be made by an independent commissioner".

- NZ Herald

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