One of Auckland's wealthiest private property investors wants to demolish two Mt Eden Village buildings and replace them with a retail, office and medical amenities, drawing some to calling the scheme a "science fiction bunker".
Auckland Council received 78 submissions on Samson Corporation's notified proposal for a large new Mt Eden office/retail/medical building: three in support and 75 against.
The Mt Eden Maungawhau Village Centre Society "strongly opposes" plans, saying five breaches of the Unitary Plan were proposed and demolishing one building on Mt Eden Rd "would have a very significant impact on the recognised streetscape character".
"The proposed building dominates - in a manner reminiscent of a science fiction bunker - the surrounding gracious elderly buildings. There is no consideration given to creating a profile or surface that is in keeping with the neighbouring buildings," the society's opposing submission said.
Samson, owned by the Friedlander family - whose assets were valued last year at an estimated $1.85 billion - plans changes at 443 and 445 Mt Eden Rd near Circus Circus, the cafe on the Ngauruhoe St corner.
A hearing started yesterday and is continuing today.
Samson wants to demolish two village buildings and replace them with a two to three-level block designed by award-winning Richard Naish of RTA Studio.
The National Business Review Rich List's Friedlander entry last year said: "With a long history of investing in high-end commercial property in Auckland, Sir Michael Friedlander is one of the country's richest businessmen, although his empire is now largely operated by his sons Jason and Daniel. Considered one of the most influential businessmen in the city, the Auckland lawyer is one of a handful of people who have featured on the NBR Rich List every year since 1986."
Marco Creemers, Samson projects director, told the Herald today that the cost to earthquake-strengthen the Mt Eden Rd retail building did not make economic sense. The site behind it was under-utilised, so it made more sense to replace both buildings.
"The new building meets all the requirements of the Unitary Plan but the roof breaches the height-sensitive area, yet passes the criteria of that breach - that is, that the breach has the same effect as compliant height building," Creemers said.
Samson had hired the best team to give the best outcome for the village, he said.
"We have a substantial investment in the village and wouldn't want to jeopardise that. These buildings have to go and that's sad but the new building will be better.
"It's a well-considered project and the detailing of the building goes beyond the norm to respect what's been taken away."
The new building would also have a five-star green rating. Sustainable timber construction and use of local materials was also planned, Creemers said.
But the society submission says: "The net effect of this consent, were it to be granted, would be to take away at one stroke two attractive and character-defining buildings within the Mt Eden village special character area. This application if given consent would signal that all character-defining buildings within the village are under potential threat of demolition or removal."
Allowing Samson's application would erode the village character and indicated a lack of commitment to the special area, the society said.
Creemers' submission said: "It's the initial change that's the biggest hurdle to get over. None of our developments have ever been dubbed post-build with terrible nicknames or referenced in derogatory terms. They tend to become part of the neighbourhood and owned by the locals."
He told how he invited all submitters to coffee meetings at Circus Circus, the cafe at 447-449 Mt Eden Rd, "so we could discuss their objection or supporting submission to see if we could solve the differences of opinions and find solutions to their problems with the proposal".
Circus Circus had not objected to the proposal, he said.
A reserved decision on the matter is expected.