Upper Symonds St above Auckland's CBD is being eyed as a largely pedestrianised zone - above shallow vehicle tunnels - when trams return to the city.
The Uptown Business Association has produced a conceptual design for the "greening" of what is one of Auckland's main traffic bottlenecks.
Under the design, by local architects Pacific Environments, traffic heading from any of five directions could pass beneath a new pedestrian precinct through which the only other motor vehicles would be trams, vans or trucks servicing shops and restaurants. That would free the intersections of New North and Mt Eden roads, and of Khyber Pass and Newton roads, for pedestrians and cyclists as well as trams.
Business association manager Gary Holmes said it would create a popular community focal point for the more than 700 businesses and thousands of residents based around Eden Terrace, Grafton and Newton.
"The main problem for Uptown is that currently it is dissected by a number of major arterial roads which join at the central point of the business district, greatly reducing the opportunity for any cohesion or sense of community," he said. "Added to that is the major impact the area will experience from the development of the [$2.5 billion] City Rail Link and the potential light rail transit [tram] network."
Redevelopment plans for the area took a knock last year when Auckland Transport scrapped a proposed underground station deep below the Mt Eden-New North roads intersection, in favour of transforming the existing Mt Eden surface station into a split-level train stop for the rail project. But the council transport body has since indicated the possibility of laying tram tracks along Symonds St by about 2030 in a phased development of light rail which could start as early as 2019 from Dominion Rd to the waterfront.
The business association has come up with its proposal as a way of encouraging people from new mixed residential-commercial developments around the Mt Eden rail hub, to spend a few minutes walking up the hill to Symonds St.
Mr Holmes acknowledged the proposal would mean the loss of parking but said making the precinct more pedestrian-friendly would counteract impacts on businesses.
"At the moment, they have a race track going past their front doors - this will slow people down," he said. "This area has been neglected for a number of years, and this is a way to redeem that."
His association intended spending $20,000 to $30,000 in each of the next two years or so on firming it up or considering alternatives, during which financial estimates should emerge.
Pacific Environments managing director Peter Eising said the proposal offered just one potential solution for the area's redevelopment, but the challenges it faced meant visionary thinking was required.
Auckland Transport strategy chief Peter Clark said his team had yet to study the proposal but were keen to learn more about it and to work with the business association.
Auckland Transport tram proposal
•To start from Dominion Rd to waterfront via Queen St by 2019.
•Later phase from Mt Eden to the city via Upper Symonds St by about 2030.