Much-publicised, long awaited changes to Auckland's canyon-like Federal St car rat run, which straddles SkyCity Entertainment Group's properties, are about to start.
Nigel Morrison, the group's chief executive, told a post-results media briefing workers would arrive in the next few weeks as the $10 million street project begins.
SkyCity is paying $5.5 million and Auckland Council $4.5 million of the costs which will see the street upgraded to a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
New restaurants are opening on the edge of the one-way busy street between the SkyCity Grand Hotel and SkyCity Hotel.
The street will be turned into a shared space, like Darby St, Lorne St outside the Auckland Library, Fort St, Jean Batten Place, Fort Lane and Totara Ave West in New Lynn.
Cars, cyclists and pedestrians will mingle and traditional height differences between pavements and roads are abolished. New street furniture and landscaping are planned.
Morrison said restaurateur Al Brown would soon open the Federal Street Delicatessen, based on a New York-themed deli with all-day dining.
On Federal St, SkyCity is planning changes to the main entrance foyer into the casino, tower and SkyCity Hotel. Escalators from the ground floor lobby will be moved to take a more direct route to the mezzanine level which will be extended.
The council plans to extend the shared space concept in the CBD and although cars and walkers mix, it emphasised increased safety.
"Due to lack of conventional street cues such as kerbs and road markings, it is proven that shared space streets often become safer environments. This is because motorists and pedestrians are encouraged to engage more carefully with their surroundings and with each other. For example, motorists instinctively slow down and make eye contact with pedestrians," the council said.
Design elements like street furniture, artworks and vegetation also encourage slow vehicle speeds.
A survey of shared space performance around Fort St showed peak-hour foot traffic up 50 per cent, vehicle speeds down more than 25 per cent and hospitality spending in the immediate area up 400 per cent, the council said.
Auckland Transport said the Federal St upgrade would see new lighting, furniture, paving, vegetation, parking, loading and servicing, appropriate to the entertainment hub which attracted thousands of city centre workers, domestic and international tourists.
"Around 5500 people walk along this stretch of street daily but the pedestrian environment is not particularly inviting," Auckland Transport said.
"Federal St is often also used as a short-cut by cars and buses and also acts as a long-term parking area for coaches. The plaza area around the Sky Tower is cluttered and features several barriers that block views and discourage public access and enjoyment of the space."