Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Council rejects $75m offer for carpark

The Downtown Public Parking building on the corners of Customs and Hobson Streets. Photo / Greg Bowker
The Downtown Public Parking building on the corners of Customs and Hobson Streets. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Auckland Council has rejected a $75 million offer for the downtown carpark.

The council received the surprise offer on Friday by the operators of Tournament Park, who gave the council a deadline of this Friday to accept it.

In a statement, council chief executive said: "The carpark is not currently for sale. If there is to be any divestment of parking assets, a proposal to do so would be included in the Long-term Plan for public consultation." The council is returning a $7.5 million deposit cheque to Tournament Parking, which is operated by Auckland businessmen Simon Rowntree and James Brown.

The Downtown carpark has 1900 spaces and sits on prime waterfront land two blocks away from Queen St.

The offer included a commitment not to increase casual parking rates above the rate of inflation for at least five years, and to maintain existing free public access from the carpark building to Customs St West, Lower Hobson St and Albert St.

The Downtown carpark and its surrounds are "one of the main redevelopment and public realm opportunities"in the council's city centre masterplan.

The masterplan says the view from the carpark in Lower Hobson St is "one of Auckland's finest, but is currently reserved for vehicles".

A council source said the carpark was one of the most strategically important sites on the waterfront.

In a statement, Mr Rowntree and Mr Brown said they were disappointed at the council's
decision to reject their offer.

The pair hoped the offer would help reduce planned rates increases and enable Queen Elizabeth Square to remain open to Aucklanders and in public ownership.

The council is currently negotiating the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square, in the heart of the CBD, with a publicly listed company.

"James and Simon are disappointed that the council has decided not to consider alternatives to privatising Queen Elizabeth Square to fast-track the Auckland City Rail Link and reduce rate increases," a spokesperson for Mr Brown and Mr Rowntree said today.

"Nevertheless, they accept the council's decision and that's where the matter will rest, enabling them to focus on other business opportunities."

Councillor Cameron Brewer congratulated Mr Town for not accepting the offer and putting commonsense ahead of an opportunistic fire sale.

"Our cash-strapped Mayor would've been very tempted just to take it and run, but the reality is if council ever decided to sell, that building and location could command much more than $75 million.

"That's what the commercial real estate and development sector are telling me.

"I think there could well be a case for the council to get out of the business of owning car parking buildings but I'm pleased we're not flogging off our best CBD parking asset to the first person who presents a cheque," Mr Brewer said.

- NZ Herald

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