Westhaven plan needs shipmate

By Colin Taylor

Marine firms are expected to be keen to sign on for a project to enhance the waterfront

An artist's impression of the Westhaven Marine Centre and promenade; the design is derived from Auckland's historic boatsheds and wharf buildings.
An artist's impression of the Westhaven Marine Centre and promenade; the design is derived from Auckland's historic boatsheds and wharf buildings.

A marine commercial centre and public promenade planned for a large site running along the western edge of Auckland city's Westhaven Marina will transform the area.

The development plan for a 1ha site on a strip of reclaimed land is the latest step by council-owned Waterfront Auckland to open up areas to the public and provide attractive spaces for marine businesses.

Waterfront Auckland is seeking a development partner to complete the commercial centre project that is to be known as Westhaven Marine Centre and has appointed Colliers International to take the proposal to the market.

The proposition is featured in the agency's latest New Zealand Portfolio magazine.

Offers to buy the development rights to the marine centre are being handled by Peter Herdson and John Green of Colliers' corporate and institutional sales team with the deadline private treaty process closing on October 16.

The centre will incorporate three separate two-level buildings, containing spaces being offered for lease to marine industry businesses, Herdson says.

"The site's zoning means the centre will be exclusively for marine-related users, and once completed it is expected to house businesses such as yacht brokers, chandlery outlets, marine service businesses and dive shops. Some food and beverage use will also be permitted, so we are likely to see one or two cafes or restaurants getting on board to make the most of the site's great views of the city skyline."

Daniel Khong, project director at Waterfront Auckland, says he has already fielded strong interest from businesses keen to move to the new centre, including a sailmaker interested in leasing a purpose-designed loft space.

"With discussions under way with potential occupiers on around two-thirds of the available space, the Westhaven Marine Centre is already well on the way towards becoming one of the top marine centres in New Zealand," Khong says.

"Our aim with this project is to further ensure the long-term presence of a significant marine industry hub on the central Auckland waterfront to complement the existing Wynyard Quarter. We are committed to providing quality space for these businesses in a world-class environment."

The buildings, which will offer a total of 7500sq m of lettable floor area, have been designed by award-winning architects Fearon Hay. The firm's work includes the North Wharf hospitality precinct in the Wynyard Quarter and Imperial Buildings in the Auckland CBD.

Green says plans for the centre's design and specifications are already well developed by Waterfront Auckland, architects and engineers to ensure the finished product is in keeping with the organisation's wider plans for the waterfront.

However, the successful buyer will be able to have input into the final building specifications, as well as management of finance and leasing arrangements in conjunction with Waterfront Auckland, says Green. "Waterfront Auckland sees this as a prime asset in the valuable marina precinct and is keen to ensure the final outcome is in keeping with its vision for Auckland's waterfront developments as a whole."

Herdson says Fearon Hay's design will evoke images of traditional marine warehouses but will be constructed to top quality modern standards.

The design of the buildings is derived from the old gabled boatsheds and wharf buildings on Auckland's waterfront, including the now demolished Shelley Beach Baths.

"The centre is a multimillion-dollar project that will be constructed with a view to achieving a five-green-star rating.

"Buildings will incorporate features such as extensive glazed frontages to make the most of the spectacular views over the yacht masts to the CBD."

Tenants will have the opportunity to custom-design their own fit-outs with the buildings provided on a "shell" basis.

The buildings will cover only 50 per cent of the site with an emphasis on public access and retaining natural features such as established trees.

Khong says there is no doubt it will be challenging to select the best development partner to share Waterfront Auckland's philosophy and vision in creating authentic and vibrant waterfront spaces.

"We expect competition will be strong. We will consider offers from all parties with the aim of finding the right development and investment partner to come on board. We want to team up with an investor who is as passionate as we are about the potential for the marina and the waterfront as a whole. This is a rare opportunity to acquire a prime waterfront site in New Zealand's largest and fastest-growing city," Khong says.

Green says Waterfront Auckland will construct a 2km public promenade along the western edge of the marina in front of the proposed marine centre, as well as a new sea wall.

"The promenade will be a broad paved and decked walkway and cycleway that will greatly enhance the public amenity value in the marina area when it is completed next year," he says.

"It will open up the area for people to enjoy the views of the city skyline and will link the marina to Wynyard Quarter with pedestrian access the whole way around."

Khong says the Auckland waterfront is a pivotal area for the council's future vision for Auckland.

"Our vision is to deliver a world-class waterfront.

"We want Auckland's waterfront to be an example of superbly designed, sustainable urban transformation that attracts investors, businesses, tourists and locals. We aim to showcase Auckland as a smart global city, while delivering an enhanced waterfront for Aucklanders and visitors through drawing on global best practice."

The proposed development of the Westhaven Marine Centre and public promenade ties in to Auckland Council's vision of making Auckland the world's most liveable city, he says.

"An important element of transforming Auckland into the world's most liveable city is reconnecting residents and visitors with the waterfront by creating high-quality public spaces along with opportunities for residential, retail, office and hospitality projects. We also want to connect the waterfront with the adjacent Auckland CBD and showcase sustainable design."

Green says Auckland's population is growing at a faster rate than any other New Zealand centre's and is projected to increase by an extra one million people by 2040, by which time the city will house 40 per cent of New Zealand's population.

"Tourism activity in Auckland is also expected to grow over the next five years - trends which both underpin the viability of projects which improve public access to the waterfront," Green says.

The Westhaven Marine Centre offer follows the announcement of a major campaign by Waterfront Auckland to find private-sector partners to participate in the $1 billion development of 3.25ha of prime waterfront land at the Wynyard Quarter.

The plans include a hub for innovation and technology start-up businesses, construction of residential units and a five-star waterfront hotel, making up New Zealand's largest urban regeneration project outside Christchurch.

The planned redevelopment is expected to take place over 20 years, directly supporting 20,000 new fulltime jobs in Auckland.

Khong says the waterfront is expected to become a key economic driver for the city in the future.

"It is forecast that by 2040 the waterfront redevelopment will contribute over $4 billion to Auckland's economy."

The first phase of the urban regeneration of the Wynyard Quarter was opened to the public in August 2011 with the successful delivery of the Jellicoe Precinct. This included public spaces and infrastructure to attract private investment and capital in the form of the move of ASB's headquarters to the area and the development of the North Wharf hospitality precinct.

Fonterra has said its new global headquarters will be built at a Viaduct site.

- NZ Herald

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