Final stage more facial than facelift

By Bernard Orsman

The upper valley, as it is known, has changed little through the $43.5 million upgrade of Queen St. A boulevard of healthy liquidambars still dominates the lower reaches, the continuous row of 16 historic shops remains a distinguishable feature and big plans for the entrance to Myers Park have been scaled back.

Instead of new bluestone pavers, black asphalt is the main surface.

Dr Jill McPherson, the council officer in overall charge of the Queen St project, said asphalt was not the first choice but for practical reasons - such as the steep slope and the labyrinth of tree roots under the pavement - it made good sense.

Another reason the upper part of Queen St has received less attention is that it was done last and the $43.5 million budget, already well over original estimates, was stretched.

The exception to asphalt is outside the row of terraced two-storey brick shops, built between 1908 and 1912, mostly occupied these days by a thriving mix of Asian restaurants.

A mat of small, slip-resistant pavers has been laid to enhance the impression of one continuous building. The footpath has also been extended out from the shops to protect the canopies.

The council has yet to get the owners of the buildings to complete a paint job on them. The shops have been painted in their original red colour but without the white pointing to resemble red bricks. Failure to complete the job could lead to a maximum fine of $40,000 from the Historic Places Trust.

The other area to get some paving treatment is at the entrance to Myers Park, where earlier plans for a $1.2 million upgrade that included sculpture and water features has not gone ahead - again for budgetary reasons.

However, the council has widened the existing pedestrian crossing at Myers Park to improve what was a hostile walking environment.

A raised, central median barrier has also been built near the intersection with Karangahape Rd to reduce traffic effects and improve pedestrian safety.

A proposal for a neon light installation by artist Paul Hartigan near the intersection with K Rd has still to go before the council's public arts panel.

K Rd got its own facelift, which finished in November 2006 at a cost of $3.5 million.

- NZ Herald

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