We need better shop verandas and input from property moguls and their tenants.
It seems like only yesterday that the ever-suffering ratepayers of the old Auckland City bowed to the wishes of the city planners and the Queen St shop-keepers and paid out $43.5 million to tart up what was once dubbed the Golden Mile.
Out went the old volcanic-coloured paving slabs and in went the grim Chinese granite replacements. Footpaths were widened, nikau palms planted and there was much back-slapping and self-congratulating all round. Now, just three years on, the planners have had another rush of blood to the head and are softening us up for Plan B. They want to turn some or all of Queen St into a pedestrian mall - some time in the next 20 years.
I say softened us up, because it was hardly coincidence that a year ago, the Danish urban design crusader for ridding city streets of cars, Jan Gehl, was commissioned to prepare a report on how it could be done, this following much publicised sorties to places like Melbourne and New York's Times Square.
The latest proposal is all part of the orgy of master planning and visioning that's going on within the bowels of the new Super City, as bureaucrats and politicians jostle - not just to demonstrate they're doing something, but also to try to get their personal hobby-horses near the top of the pile.
Back in the dark ages, Queen St was indeed the premier shopping street in the region, probably in the country. It was so busy when I was a kid that the city council painted white lines down the centre of the footpaths to ensure people kept to the left, and patrolling policemen - remember them? - ordered gossiping shoppers who were cluttering the streets outside the main department stores to move along.
Aucklanders' shopping habits have moved on since then and it's hard to see that opening up the main thoroughfare to pedestrians will alter 50 years of history and bring customers flooding back to the CBD. Particularly if it includes the planners' latest fad which has shoppers dicing with death and "sharing" the space with buses and cars.
Apparently it will relax us, make us sit down and watch the rest of the world go by. That sort of thing. Reading the draft report, I couldn't help thinking, aren't we already spending untold tens of millions on flossing up Queens Wharf for the same purpose, to say nothing of the $80 million gone on the remodelling of Aotea Square?
Surely what Queen St needs to turn itself into a world-class shopping street is not another injection of public money on another infrastructural makeover. What might help is more input from the building owners and their merchant tenants.
The wide new footpaths are fine - though a white line up the middle to encourage people to keep to the left would help. And with all the traffic-slowing crossings and lights now installed, it's hardly a busy road any more.
What I said at the end of the $43.5 million makeover still holds true. Much of Queen St looks like the main street of a tired old provincial town, slowly dying since the state highway through town got bypassed.
The dream of shoppers promenading up the centre of the street ignores the unpalatable truth that, in summer, the hot sun makes Auckland melanoma central and throughout the year, the risks of cloudbursts are ever present. Which brings me to my hobby-horse. Shop verandas.
The BNZ headquarters did destroy the art deco attractions of the Jean Batten Building but it did show other building owners what a functional, attractive, well-lit, pedestrian-friendly veranda looks like.
Recent "tropical" downpours were a reminder to those of us who work in the CBD how colander-like much of Queen St's shelter is. Much of it is old and dirty with leaks down light fittings and between ill-matched neighbours.
The council sets the mood, with no cover for anyone wanting to visit the Town Hall, the city administration building or the Aotea Centre on foot.
We were told three years ago that the $43.5 million makeover was what was needed to make Queen St into a world-class destination. It didn't, and nor will pedestrianising it at great public expense. What might is a bit more input from the property moguls and their tenants.