Sea change under way on waterfront

By Colin Taylor

VIADUCT: Plan is to provide world-class living and working environment, writes Colin Taylor

Artist's impressions of the proposed development including looking west toward the Lysaght Building. Photo / Supplied
Artist's impressions of the proposed development including looking west toward the Lysaght Building. Photo / Supplied

After delivering the first stage of the Wynyard Quarter development and the reopening of Queens Wharf as a public space, Waterfront Auckland is ready to proceed to the next phase of development, says John Dalzell, chief executive of the council controlled organisation (CCO) charged with revitalising the inner city waterfront.

Dalzell says investment in the area to date is the order of $156 million incorporating works in Wynyard Quarter and Queens Wharf. Total investment of Auckland Council funded capital over the next 10 years and committed to the waterfront is expected to be $236 million with an overarching planning document, The Waterfront Plan, guiding where the funds will be spent.

This includes $160 million on public projects like parks and public spaces; and $76 million on private/commercial projects including marina development and an Innovation Precinct.

The next large scale redevelopment for Wynyard Quarter is in the area south of Jellicoe St, known as Wynyard Central.

It will provide for a mix of marine, commercial/office, residential, retail and community uses.

Feeding into this and to be completed in 2013 is Stage 1 of the Daldy Linear Park, a "generous" high-quality, slow-speed landscaped street, that will set the scene for further development to occur.

"An upgrade of Halsey St will also enhance and protect water views to the east and the stunning view of Auckland's city centre," Dalzell says.

Waterfront Auckland is also working with a potential hotel operator to progress a proposed hotel site on the corner of Halsey St and Karanga Plaza, facing the Viaduct Harbour, that would offer "magnificent harbour views".

"However, the real excitement around Wynyard Central currently, is its potential home to an innovation precinct," says Dalzell. "This will focus on ICT [information and communications technology] and digital media which is expected to contribute $300 million to the Auckland economy with job creations and increases in labour productivity."

Dalzell says these sectors are Auckland's and New Zealand's leading internationally competitive industries in GDP terms, and co-locating them with the marine, finance, and clean technology sectors can only be a good thing for the waterfront.

"The innovation precinct is an idea which involves co-locating a mix of firms from these sectors with a research and development presence and wrapping support services for acceleration around them," he says.

"It will consist of a residential, retail spaces and office space where a cluster of companies, backed by business service providers, will accelerate the growth of high-tech ideas into commercial success. This will assist the growth of new and emerging businesses alongside more established companies with an eye on exporting. This will be a place where like-minded individuals and complementary high-tech companies and their talented people can work, live and enjoy an urban lifestyle in an environment designed to foster collaboration and entrepreneurship."

The aim is that within 20 years, the precinct will be a major Asia-Pacific hub that will showcase New Zealand innovation in ICT and high-tech industries and will include:

* A mix of small and large, domestic and international companies a multinational tenant;

* A research and development presence including a Government backed R&D organisation;

* An environment for the incubation for new ideas and start up companies; and

* Specialised business support services.

The precinct consists of a 3.6ha mixed-use area where people will come to live and work, it extends from the corner of Pakenham St West and Halsey St through to Beaumont St.

Waterfront Auckland is leading the development and construction of the precinct while fellow council organisation Ateed (Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development) and an innovation operator will accelerate growth in activity, business and jobs.

The first part of the innovation cluster starts with the refurbishment of the Lysaght character building which Dalzell says will be a catalyst for further development of the wider innovation precinct."

He says the Lysaght building, as an art deco structure, already has huge appeal to high-tech organisations and is attracting them to the planned innovation precinct. "The Auckland Council has committed $7.9 million to Lysaght's restoration, starting construction early next year. The building occupies a high-profile corner site, providing 1600 sq m of space with a ground floor and a mezzanine. It is well-suited to businesses working in a contemporary way with open plan and lots of space and technology for meetings and collaboration."

Following this first stage, private investment Waterfront Auckland is seeking private investment to deliver 50,000 sq m of commercial space for innovative companies and businesses which serve them.

Investment in the adjacent industrial buildings, the North Sails and Southern Spars buildings in Pakenham St is being considered for delivery by a mix of private and public funders. Demand for these spaces is also strong.

The plans retain the original facade of North Sails, with new build space on additional levels to provide about 13,000 sq m of office space. Southern Spars, a characterful industrial space, is proposed for refurbishment, with concept designs providing 6000 sq m of space over three levels.

In between the two buildings an atrium is planned as a collaboration space to encourage connections and spontaneous interaction between tenants, where new products and services can be demonstrated and showcased, and where digital media and business networks enhance Auckland's ability to link up with other like precincts offshore.

At the northern end of the atrium, running perpendicular to it, a "water street" is envisaged - a kind of a canal or shallow waterway running through a pedestrian area that would create a 'metaphorical' connection with the sea. "High quality amenities like these are known to attract talented people into a desirable place to work."

Dalzell says Waterfront Auckland and Ateed have closely studied successful overseas redevelopment projects like San Francisco Bay's Silicon Valley, Seaport Square in Boston, USA, and 22@Barcelona in Spain.

"In relation to investment in our waterfront, we intend to cast the net wide and look for large scale, best international capital partners, We are also releasing a proposal to innovation precinct operators shortly, both to organisations here and through international innovation networks, to secure the best possible operator for the innovation precinct," he says.

Already Ateed has had significant market and tenant interest and a formal partnership with business incubator Icehouse has also been signed.

Further east along the waterfront, Ports of Auckland has gone back to the drawing board following a public outcry over plans for long-term reclamation pushing out into the harbour.

"Earlier this year Ports of Auckland floated some expansion ideas as part of the draft Waterfront Plan process," CEO Tony Gibson says.

"It's fair to say they didn't go down too well in some quarters, so we've gone away and had another think: Can we grow our business without growing our land area? Can we make the port more efficient so we can handle Auckland's trade growth on our current footprint?" Gibson says he thinks the answers are, "probably yes, at least for the next 20 years. We've already made a number of changes at the port to improve productivity and the container terminal's shift and roster system is the last bit of the puzzle.

He says capacity could be increased by around 300,000 20-foot containers by removing inefficiencies in the current shift and roster system. "That's a 40 per cent increase and that alone means we could delay construction of a new berth by at least six years."

Gibson says POA is getting help to review the entire operation from one of the world's most highly respected port planning consultancies, TBA, headquartered in the Netherlands.

"They have come up with some ideas which could give us the capacity we need for at least the next 20 years, based on current projections. These aren't crazy pie-in-the-sky schemes either, they are simple, practical ideas already used by best practice ports in Europe and Asia. We could, for example, boost efficiency by merging our two container terminals into one, the Fergusson Terminal, leaving Bledisloe wharf for general cargo."

Gibson says plans to finish off the work already under way to complete the Fergusson Container Terminal, "but more slowly than first planned".

"We also want to open the Captain Cook and Marsden wharves to the public over the medium-term, but we need to replace their facilities first. That could involve a modest extension to Bledisloe wharf to replace lost berth space and possibly a low-rise car park building, subject to consent.

"Finally, at some point we'll need to think about expansion again because Auckland's predicted growth will see to that. However, that's a decision for a future generation; our responsibility is to ensure all their options are open, which is why we need to keep the designated port zone."

Innovation, with the support of strong networks and alliances, will help increase the advantage and level of productivity needed by diverse industries on the waterfront and wider Auckland to compete in the local and global economy.

Waterfront development
Cost so far:
Around $120 million

Expected council expenditure over next 10 years: About $236 million.

Proposed: A waterfront innovation precinct

Purpose: An Asia-Pacific hub for high-tech industries

Ports of Auckland: No reclamation for at least 20 years

- NZ Herald

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