Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Seven-year Britomart project starts to pay off

Peter Cooper says the new east towers will lift the number of Britomart workers to 3000. Photo / Natalie Slade
Peter Cooper says the new east towers will lift the number of Britomart workers to 3000. Photo / Natalie Slade

It has taken seven years, but developer Peter Cooper now says with confidence that his Britomart project has reached a tipping point at which Aucklanders can feel, touch and enjoy the historic quarter.

Ten days after the opening of the Wynyard Quarter redevelopment, Mr Cooper was flanked by Prime Minister John Key and Mayor Len Brown last night for the official opening of another piece of the waterfront jigsaw at Britomart.

The Ernst & Young Building and Westpac on Takutai Square make up the new complex at the eastern end of the Britomart precinct that features a nine-storey atrium with high-end shops and two "green walls" of vertical plantings.

These buildings and the new Britomart carpark on the former Oriental Markets site provide the critical mass to support the "live theatre" at Britomart, says the developer.

The 2100 workers occupying the two, 10-level east towers bring to 3000 the number of daytime workers at the 5.2ha Britomart precinct.

"I invite you to come down here at midnight on any Saturday and you will witness a full house that rocks," Mr Cooper told guests at last night's opening ceremony.

Auckland's biggest heritage and urban regeneration project was about two-thirds complete, he said, and for the first time since work started in 2004 was generating a positive cash flow.

Mr Cooper acknowledged it had been a tough haul during the financial crisis, but Cooper and Company had got through it with the help of its bankers.

Nine of the 17 heritage buildings have been refitted and tenanted and work will begin next year on the Australis and Nathan Buildings on Customs St.

Work has started on a medium-term, low-rise retail development in the centre of the precinct, known as Showcase, to be opened in time for the Rugby World Cup. It will include a high-fashion gallery of up to 12 New Zealand designers.

Between the Showcase building and a new garden area are seven Maori posts, carved by Chris Bailey and coloured in black with reference to the Te Aupouri tribe in the Far North from whom Mr Cooper and the carver are descended.

The central site is earmarked for a similar-size building to the eastern complex, but Mr Cooper said nothing will be built until a commercial anchor is found.

"I wouldn't imagine we will be doing that for another five years."

Another project on hold is a hotel on the Seafarers Building site on Quay St. Cooper and Company have approval for a building made up of two heights - 55.2m and 35.4m - to echo the pattern of different heights along Quay St. The allowable building height for the site is 24m.

The Auckland Council has appealed against the decision to remove the height restriction.

Kaitaia-born Mr Cooper, who divides his time between New Zealand and the United States where he has been developing the Southlake Town Centre in Texas, is very positive about the new waterfront "face" for Auckland.

"If you look at any of the major cities around the Pacific Rim, let alone Europe, they are really all built around the waterfront edge."

- NZ Herald

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