Albany to grow into city in own right

By Anne Gibson

Property investors yesterday unveiled a $500 million plan for bare land at Albany where they plan to create a new town centre for thousands of people.

Albany City Property Investments, a joint venture of New Zealand-based developers, has bought a leasehold interest in the block of land between the Northern Motorway and the existing Albany Supa Centa for the new area.

They plan to build the new development behind where Westfield is developing its new 70,000sq m Albany mall. The land is between the Northern Motorway, North Harbour Stadium and Albany Supa Centa.

But a North Shore planning chief warned against strictly heeding the image from the investors showing how the new city might look when finished.

John Duguid, senior environmental policy adviser at North Shore City Council, said the image showed only what might be built but few city centres were developed to their full potential.

"I'd take that image with a grain of salt," he said.

And the drawing showed only underground parking which could be misleading because developers often resisted digging underground because of costs, Mr Duguid said.

They might instead apply for above-ground parking.

The latest plans could also change, depending on an Environment Court ruling.

On December 4, the court begins a two-week hearing on appeals to North Shore's plan change for the Albany area.

Shopping centre giant Westfield and supermarket owners Foodstuffs are the main objectors to the change, which allows Albany to be intensified. Westfield is challenging allowing retail outside the existing shopping centre zoning.

Developers Cornerstone Group and Symphony Group, and supermarket owners Progressive are largely supportive of the plan change, Mr Duguid said.

The council has had pre-application discussions with developers for part of the scheme, while other parts had been notified for public input. None has been approved yet, he said.

But the developers have an ambitious plan for the area.

Garry Looker, Kevin Podmore and Nick Wevers of the venture said yesterday they wanted to initially raise $30 million from the public to fund a $63 million land purchase to enable the initial plans to proceed on three parts of the site. They will buy a leasehold interest in the first 12.85ha of land with this money to begin with.

Rick Martin's Cornerstone Group owns the block earmarked for development but is selling a leasehold interest to the investors.

Mr Podmore said transport links, the area's growth profile, its zoning and general amenities had encouraged his group to plan the development. Albany was projected to become North Shore City's commercial hub in the next few years, employing 15,500 people and being home to more than 9000 people, he said.

Malcolm Black, chairman of the Albany Community Board, said the area was becoming a focus in its own right and was no longer considered as being on the outskirts of Auckland.

He said rejected concerns that the existing Albany Village could be ruined by large-scale developments next door, saying the traditional-style township had been upgraded recently and its identity enhanced.

Albany plans

* A 200-room hotel
* Large-scale apartment project, with three towers rising up to 30 levels
* Up to 15 office blocks rising 10 levels high
* Retirement village for hundreds of people
* New bulk retail centre.

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