Cash-strapped Auckland Council is all set to flog its largest car parking building in the central city, which could see the end of cheap parking for shoppers and those in for a night on the town.
The Downtown carpark will go on the market next month in the expectation a new skyscraper will be built on the prime waterfront site.
Whoever buys the seven-storey car park building must integrate a transport hub into the development for buses, bikes and e-scooters, but does not have to provide cheap parking for the public unless they choose to.
In the off-peak hours and at weekends, thousands of Aucklanders use the Downtown carpark to come into the central city to shop, eat out and go to shows, according to council surveys.
It costs $2 an hour and a maximum of $10 to park on weekday evenings and at the weekend. Mobility parking is free for the first two hours after 6pm and on weekends. Private car-parking companies typically charge $3-plus an hour off-peak.
The Downtown building has 1944 parking spaces, of which 1148 are for short-stay parking and 796 for lease. The building sits on a 0.65ha site on the corner of Customs St West and Lower Hobson St, behind the M Social Hotel on Quay St.
The issue of keeping some short-term car parks as a condition of the sale was debated vigorously at a planning committee meeting last week, with mayor Phil Goff and a majority of councillors voting to leave the matter to the developer.
Several councillors wanted to make short-term parking a condition of the sale, including John Watson, Wayne Walker, Chris Fletcher, Sharon Stewart and Greg Sayers.
Watson said during a series of closed-door workshops on the sale councillors were repeatedly told the provision of short-stay parking was important for the "city centre's vibrancy and economy". An amendment from Watson to provide public car parking was voted down.
Sayers said the council is privatising a public car-parking building and relinquishing its ability to control parking prices.
"Private commercial interests will now control the supply of car parks in the city and be able to increase prices without any counterbalance from the council," he said.
Local Waitematā councillor Pippa Coom told the meeting the amendment was inconsistent with the council's strategies and plans for the city centre.
A cornerstone of these strategies and plans is to reduce the number of cars coming into the city centre in favour of public transport, cycling, walking and e-scooters.
Locking in car parking, said Coom, was a solution to yesterday's problems.
She said there will always be a need for some people to drive into the city centre, but by the time a new building is on the site in 2028, the City Rail Link will have opened, light rail will be running from the city centre and there will be more ferries, including electric ferries.
"The city is going to be really different. There are going to be people fountains," she said.
Goff said the carpark building is in an area of the city better connected to public transport than any other part "by a country mile".
Offloading the building, he said, would help meet the council's sales target, saying to micromanage the process would load more costs on to the developer and mean less money for the council.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said the sale of the site is an exciting opportunity for the city.
She favours transformation in the city centre, but said it is hard to know what accessibility would look like in 2028.
Short-term car parking is still needed for the foreseeable future, said Beck, who is keen to see what the successful developer comes back with in terms of parking.
Precinct Properties, which built Commercial Bay and owns five office towers grouped along the waterfront, is keen to buy the downtown carpark building and put up another striking tower on the city's skyline.
"It's a great site," said Precinct chief executive Scott Pritchard, who envisages another tower with offices, a hotel and apartments.
Under the Unitary Plan, a 180m tall skyscraper - the same height as the 41-storey PWC Tower at Commercial Bay - can be built on the land.
Pritchard said Precinct had to win a competitive tender first, but if it is successful a new building would be part of an east-west urban environment from Britomart to Commercial Bay, the Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter.
"Commercial Bay is a $1 billion project and this would be bigger," said Pritchard, who said the company had some clear ideas about what it would do with the site, but could not share them at this stage.
If Precinct wins the tender, he said, the company would get cracking straight away on a six-to-eight-year build.