Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Cold reception to Ponsonby 'fridge'

Planned modern building with shops and apartments clashes with area's historic character, say opponents.

The proposed mixed-use development for 221 Ponsonby Rd. Photo / Supplied
The proposed mixed-use development for 221 Ponsonby Rd. Photo / Supplied

A proposed three-storey retail and apartment building on Ponsonby Rd is sparking debate about the merits of modern architecture along the famous character strip.

Developer Neil Salter's plan for the empty site on the corner of Ponsonby Rd and Pember Reeves St has two shops at street level and three apartments above.

The site is zoned residential but he is seeking consent to overturn a number of residential controls, including maximum building coverage of 35 per cent and a minimum of 40 per cent landscaping coverage.

Through his company, Ponsonby Road Ltd, Mr Salter wants 100 per cent coverage over the 480sq m site for building and carparking - and even then the proposal has a shortage of four parking spaces.

But it is the modern, rectangular design of the building, with concrete panels and metal screens, that has upset the Western Bays Community Group and others.

"This really is an awful piece of work and has no place on Ponsonby Rd," said community group spokesman Geoff Houtman.

He said there should be a building on the site but the proposal was "synthetic, inappropriate and unsympathetic to its surroundings".

Another heritage advocate, who did not want to be named, said the design "looks like a fridge".

Mr Salter could not be reached for comment, but a report he commissioned by urban design consultant Clinton Bird said the building would be "unashamedly of its time and will appropriately avoid being a 'pastiche' of historic architectural styles".

Mr Bird said the building would exhibit a particularly "human scale" and bring high-quality contemporary architecture to the mix of ages and styles that characterise Ponsonby Rd.

It was appropriate, he said, to build right up to both the Ponsonby Rd and Pember Reeves St boundaries to ensure the shops' commercial viability.

Mr Bird has previously advised on another Ponsonby project - in 2008 he was hired by the developer Marlin to review the controversial Soho project, which came to grief. He called it a "worthy and exciting new development".

Mr Salter's plans have attracted 27 submissions, of which 19 were opposed and eight in favour.

Differing views

"This really is an awful piece of work and has no place on Ponsonby Rd." Geoff Houtman, Western Bays Community Group

"The architectural character of the proposed development will be entirely appropriate to its Ponsonby Rd context." Clinton Bird, urban design consultant.

- NZ Herald

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