The first images of a major facelift for Auckland's downtown waterfront have been released by the council, showing expanded public spaces stepping down to the water's edge on either side of the Ferry Building, which could have a wider promenade in front of it.
Auckland councillors are expected to conclude the privatisation of Queen Elizabeth Square to Precinct Properties on Thursday and use the proceeds for improving the waterfront between Princes and Captain Cook wharves.
Three spaces have been identified for improvement - the ferry basin at the foot of Lower Albert St, around the Ferry Building and the base of Queens Wharf, and the Admiralty Steps east of Queens Wharf.
The images are only at the concept stage but together portray wider and more generous public space and better connection with the Waitemata Harbour. For example, the current footpath and seating area in the ferry basin could be pushed out and stepped down to the water's edge. The Ferry Building could become more of a feature with a wide promenade and the removal of clutter at the base of Queens Wharf.
The plan for the Admiralty Steps is to purchase the space from Ports of Auckland and create a wide and open space, including an urban beach and playground.
Council officers say the privatisation of QEII Square - estimated by one commercial real estate expert to be worth $60 million - is expected to deliver at least two of the three waterfront spaces.
Funding for the third space, an uncosted upgrade of Quay St, a $40 million repair bill for the downtown seawall between Princes and Marsden wharves will be discussed as part of a new 10-year budget.
The waterfront is one of the priorities in Mayor Len Brown's draft budget which proposes continued record levels of investment in the city but billions of dollars of capital and operational spending cuts to balance the books.
The privatisation of QEII Square as part of a $300 million upgrade of the Downtown Shopping Centre by Precinct was approved in principle by a 14-7 council committee vote in May.
The process has drawn criticism. However, the release of two independent reports is expected to lead to the sale being formally approved.
The sale will also lead to Lower Queen St in front of the old Chief Post Office being turned into a pedestrianised civic space and bus services moving to Lower Albert St. A pedestrian laneway will be built through the redeveloped Downtown Shopping Centre to provide public access between the Britomart train station and buses in Lower Albert St.
Mr Brown did not want to comment on the waterfront plans until Thursday.