Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Locals backing move to turn Soho hole into supermarket

Food giant Progressive has been lauded for draining the Soho Square site and installing fencing. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Food giant Progressive has been lauded for draining the Soho Square site and installing fencing. Photo / Steven McNicholl

From eyesore to a winner - changes to Ponsonby's Soho Square are being embraced by neighbours.

Supermarket company Progressive Enterprises has won over some locals after buying the abandoned property and revealing its plans.

Deborah White of Whitespace Gallery at 12 Crummer Rd said she welcomed the new Countdown supermarket being built on the site, and knew trucks would be bringing 24,000cu m of clean fill to the yawning hole left by the previous developers.

Locals, who referred to the previous development as Sohole, had renamed the project Countdown Square and were pleased to see progress and change, she said.

"The site has been insecure for years. Kids would go there at night and it was full of water - a five-storey hole filled with 2m of water.

"It was like that for years. A number of times young people were intoxicated, and we worried people were going to end up falling down the bank and drowning in the pool.

"If you had a 2m deep hole in your backyard, the council would not allow that. After what's happened on the site, we don't have any faith in the council's ability to look after the interests of residents.

"Now Progressive has drained the water and fenced it," she said.

had kept locals informed about its $30 million supermarket project.

"They're been really great about communicating with the neighbourhood and keeping us informed, which never happened previously," she said.

Residents and businesspeople had met Progressive representatives and received updates via phone calls and emails, Deborah White said.

She contrasted this with the original developer, Layne Kells' Marlin Group, "who we never heard from, not once".

Progressive's national communications and public affairs manager, Luke Schepen, said temporary fencing and a permanent hoarding had been erected to ensure safety and security and improve aesthetics.

The 12m excavated site just back from Ponsonby Rd is bounded by Williamson Ave, Pollen St and Crummer Rd.

"We have also cleaned up the site and set up systems to remove the water," Mr Schepen said.

"At the same time, we've also been progressing our plans for the site. It is a somewhat complex site and in the past few months we've been consulting engineers, real estate experts and potential tenants looking at a range of options.

"We've also met adjoining neighbours and members of the local community to discuss some of these. We are still working through the plans but they largely involve a supermarket, specialty retail and office development with underground parking on part of the site.

"The remainder will be refilled and subdivided and sold as small lots reflecting Ponsonby's existing landscape," he said.

"To that end, we have issued a tender to fill in the eastern half of the site. That half ... was only partially excavated ... and we are looking for fill to be supplied, placed and compacted on part of the site. We will be working through the tenders ... and will be speaking to neighbours in the New Year."

BIG PLAN

Progressive Enterprises will:

* Build a new Countdown.

* Develop specialty retail shops.

* Build some offices.

* Create underground parking.

* Sell bare land for housing lots on small sites reflecting Ponsonby area.

- NZ Herald

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