Those who have been priced out of the Ponsonby/Grey Lynn market are turning to Orakei as an attractive, more affordable location to buy in. Graham Hepburn finds out more.

When Orakei was developed as a suburb in the 1930s it was designed with a vision in mind.

It was to be a "garden suburb" of state housing to provide affordable homes for workers close to the city.

Now, part of it is being redeveloped under Auckland's Unitary Plan, which encourages high-density housing near transport nodes.

But the path hasn't been smooth for Orakei Bay Village, a collection of townhouses and apartments, on 4.5ha of land on Orakei Rd.

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The waterfront village, between Orakei Basin and Hobson Bay, is to be built over and around the Orakei train station so has been subject to objections from KiwiRail, Ports of Auckland, businesses and residents since it was first unveiled in 2006.

Although residents still remained concerned about the amount of traffic the new housing will generate, the development has been cleared to proceed.

The 4.5ha development will include about 100 town houses, 400 apartments, 10,000sq m of retail space and 10,000sq m of office space - all integrated with the train station, plazas, roads, footpaths and landscaped public areas. Better bus connections are promised and the development of Auckland's Coastal Walkway will connect Orakei Bay Village with the city, Parnell and Remuera via a waterside boardwalk and cycleway.

The development, with its architect-designed buildings and multi-million-dollar waterfront apartments, is a far cry from the days of 1937 when unionist Tom Skinner and his family moved into a state house in Coates Ave, with then Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage helping to carry their furniture in.

Proximity to the city was the driver behind the development of Orakei and it is one of the reasons it is so popular today.

As Mike Zelcer, of Ray White says: "Being a city fringe suburb it enjoys the benefits of being just 5km from the CBD with direct access via the Orakei train station and local bus routes.

"To the east, Orakei borders the seaside suburb of Mission Bay with its cafes and restaurants and to the west it conveniently connects to Remuera, Meadowbank and Newmarket."

Jack Brabant, of Bayleys, adds: "With its central location offering easy access to the CBD, eclectic mix of property and serving as a book-end to Auckland's popular Eastern Bays, Orakei is home to some of Auckland's most desirable real estate. Paritai Dr is generally regarded as Auckland's most exclusive street with spectacular views and stunning homes. House prices here are in the millions up to $30 million.

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"While a long-established suburb with loyal homeowners spanning generations, Orakei is attracting many new buyers looking to move into the Bays and Eastern Suburbs. They are after good schools, relaxed beach lifestyle and village atmosphere."

Mike Zelcer says Orakei offers a great variety of homes and quite often better value than other suburbs.

"From the cliff top mansions of Paritai Drive, Okahu St and Karori Cres through to housing built by the state in the 1930s and 40s - these are still very popular today for first home buyers and developers. Through the late 80s and 90s there was plenty of development taking place and lots of subdivisions were occurring.

"Orakei provides buyers more bang for their buck. We meet unsatisfied buyers who cannot find what they want or are being priced out of the market over in Ponsonby/Grey Lynn areas and have discovered Orakei as an affordable, alternative location still with benefits of being close to the city and with added benefits of beaches and plentiful parks.

"Also, downsizers from large family homes in Remuera wanting modern, comfortable lock-and-leave residences but still close to family and friends but without the double Grammar price tag."