Mission Bay is one of Auckland's many treasures. The long arc of sandy beachfront, pohutukawas edging the promenade, a view out to the rise of Rangitoto, a municipal marble fountain, seagulls, families and fish n' chips. All elements which draw visitors from the city and beyond to the seaside suburb year round.
The neighbourhood has a special history too. In 1860 the stone building near the beach — then a church mission house, now an upscale restaurant — hosted the historic Kohimarama Conference, an important occasion in New Zealand history when Māori leaders held a rūnaga with Pākeha officials.
One hundred chiefs gathered, and as many refused to attend a forum which Governor Thomas Gore Browne hoped would prevent fighting in Taranaki spilling to other regions.
As we report today, there is a plan to transform the suburb, or at least a significant part of the existing commercial area which separates the waterfront public space from nearby residential properties.
The $200 million proposal for a mixed multi-story housing and retail space would, if approved, give the area quite a different look and feel. The designs published today indicate the new streetscape on Tamaki Drive could open a fresh episode in the history of Mission Bay.
Not everyone will like it but there is no doubt it could give the famous surburb a new lease of life.
The project involves turning a popular but somewhat nondescript strip of cafes, restaurants and takeaway shops into a modern hospitality, retail and residential development.
Urban Legacy & Partners, the company behind the plan, is filling a suburban block inwards and upwards in a way that embraces the possibilities offered in Auckland's Unitary Plan. The business local centre zoning permits more intensive mixed-use development than under previous planning rules.
The company says the scale and intensity of the project is in keeping with the location. Its plans show seven buildings of varying heights, colours and materials with laneways leading into to the centre of the development.
The design of the buildings, with their soft rounded corners, suggest the architects want to retain the art-deco flavour of Mission Bay.
On the corner of Patteson Avenue and Tamaki Drive, the engineers want to go up eight levels, with the top of the development losing height as it edges away along the adjoining roads. The appealing Berkeley cinema would get a makeover and be fitted with as many as five theatres. It would be reached along pedestrian walkways.
Up to 100 apartments and as many as 265 carparks are proposed, which signals the developers firmly believe their design and ambition will deliver the kind of modern urban lifestyle that appeals to many Aucklanders — those who want a smaller place, and somewhere to park the car.
It must be said that several houses will be knocked down to make way for the project, and some of the existing commercial tenants will be moving on. Objectors will have an opportunity to make their points when the consent is heard as Urban Partners have requested that their application is publicly notified. The Mission Bay plan offers a glimpse of how Auckland suburbs could change their clothes yet retain their identity.
In the past, multistorey blocks have sprung up without many obvious link to their surrounds.
The Mission Bay project would seem determined to retain the connections, and is that much better for it. With history on the doorstep — or out the window — the next chapter of Mission Bay is set to be as enduring as the last.