Merchant Quarter project has some critics but developers describe the $38m tower block as iconic.
Units in a planned 14-level New Lynn apartment block are selling for well under Auckland's average.
Freehold units in Tasman Cook's 109-unit $38 million Merchant Quarter Condominiums, designed by Jasmax, are priced from $246,500 with average annual body corporate fees projected to be $1786.
That's even cheaper than the Labour Party's planned affordable $350,000 Auckland houses.
The Real Estate Institute's median residential sales price last month was $535,000 for Auckland and $389,000 nationwide. Barfoot & Thompson's Auckland average sale price in December was $624,015.
The cheapest Merchant Quarter unit is $246,500, for a 47sq m one-bedroom unit on level six without a balcony. But a 67sq m two-bedroom unit on level six with an 8sq m balcony is selling for $356,500. A level-14 81sq m apartment with an 8sq m balcony and two bedrooms is selling for $441,500.
Barfoot & Thompson is marketing the apartments, setting up a temporary sales office in the square by New Lynn Library, opposite Kiwi Income Property Trust's LynnMall. Carparks are an extra $35,000.
John Hubscher, a New Lynn resident since 1987, said the tower was unsuitable for children and is worried about LynnMall's $50 million expansion, saying the town centre would become a "concrete jungle". More lawn and landscaping was needed.
Countries such as Denmark and Holland handled better the design of intensive city living, he said.
Leonard Ross, Tasman Cook property director, said his business wanted to satisfy demand for affordable residences and the condominium development was just one of many he wanted to build in suburban areas, including Browns Bay.
"We're certainly not trying to make a fortune but trying to get affordable living in New Lynn," Ross said.
"You have to please everyone in the look. It's going to be an iconic building, 50m in the sky in New Lynn so a lot of work was put into the look of it." He said he used the term condo instead of apartment, which he thought had a negative image.
Tasman Cook was approached by Infratil, in a joint venture with Auckland Council, to complete the project.
Takapuna-based Kalmar Construction would start building next month and the tower was scheduled to be finished by December, Ross said.
"We're looking forward to getting a crane in the air," he said.
The tower will rise above the existing carpark and medical centre at the intersection of Memorial Drive, McCrae Way and Totara Ave.
One developer said the area had a great future: "It's going to be the Newmarket of the west."
Barfoot's showroom wall chart showed many apartments sold off the plans for the block opposite LynnMall in Totara Ave by the new railway/bus interchange. Units have 5.5sq m to 8sq m balconies and come with blinds, dishwashers, fridge/freezers, washing machines and driers.
A 299-space public car parking building and 7000sq m of commercial and retail space has just been built and now work has begun to create phase two of the Merchant Quarter - Merchant Square - due to be completed next December.
Whau Local Board chairman Derek Battersby said demand for low-priced homes in the area was high.
"If I worked on the railway corridor, I would be there like a hungry dog. You're getting it reasonably cheap and you can always flog it off later. You've got everything at your fingertips there and it beats the CBD hands down," he said.
Locals' reaction to the new carparking/commercial block beneath the planned tower was mixed, he said. "Some people say, 'that horrible rusty carpark', but compare that to the horrible architecture of carparks in town. I'll eat my hat if that carpark and that tower above it don't get architectural awards."
He said New Lynn's community centre, railway station and library had already won awards.
Auckland apartment blocks:
19 Anzac Ave, $60m
6 St Martins Lane, $55m
85 Wakefield St, $63m
188 Hobson St, $35m
135 Symonds St, $32m
31 Davis Cres, Newmarket, $21m
About to start $38m Merchant Quarter
Source: Tasman Cook.