Who would have thought? Happy days are nearly here again in West Lynn.
Last year the little shopping village on Richmond Rd, on the northwest edge of Grey Lynn, was subjected to a makeover by Auckland Transport. Car parks were removed, bus stops moved, cycle lanes and new planting added.
Somehow, along the way, shops got flooded, road safety was compromised, shoppers felt alienated, cyclists felt ridiculed, residents were upset, retailers outraged and the whole place turned into an eyesore.
Auckland Transport did the damage and the Waitemata Local Board seemed powerless to stop them. From start to finish – although it never actually was finished – the project was a fiasco.
Now it's going to be fixed. Wonderfully well fixed, in fact, if everyone keeps their fingers crossed for long enough.
A few months back Auckland Transport commissioned urban design consultants Boffa Miskell to revisit the project. They started by surveying shoppers on the street, retailers in their shops, resident in their homes and commuters passing through. They sat down with the Grey Lynn Business Association, the Grey Lynn Residents Association and Bike Auckland. They talked to everyone they could find with a stake in the outcome, and also to protesters Lisa Prager and Penny Bright.
They discovered West Lynn is both a local village and a shopping destination: 50 per cent of the shoppers live further afield than Grey Lynn or Westmere.
Most shoppers (59 per cent) drive there, but 29 per cent walk. Not many cycle, but 43 per cent said they "would like their primary method of transport to be bicycle". Only 30 per cent said they wanted to rely primarily on the car.
The most important goal among all survey respondents was to establish a "safe walking environment". The least important goal was to "reduce traffic delays". And – if you're a liberal Grey Lynner you may not be ready for this – there was little support for public art.
Car parking for the shops was important but on-street parking as such much less so.
Jacob Faull, who runs the baby store Nature Baby and is also co-chair of the Grey Lynn Business Association, has surveyed his own customers and found 87 per cent of them get there by car. But of those only 28 per cent use the large customer car park behind the shop.
I asked him if he had thought about putting up better signs telling customers they can park round the back. "Yes," he said, "that's high on my list."
Survey respondents said they do not want and will not use cycleways running through grass berms. They do want more trees, and noted that if any trees have to be lost, they should be replaced with mature new ones. They want the history of the area to be recognised in the village design – perhaps at bus stops, replacing the advertisements.
There was no consensus about where the bus stops or pedestrian crossings should go.
The Boffa Miskell plan has several variations but they all achieve some welcome outcomes. Most remarkably, they've found a good way for bike lanes, bus stops and on-street car parks to co-exist.
The bike lanes will run in straight lines, rather than in the ridiculous dog legs around the front of angle-parked cars, as now. These lanes will be inside the parked cars and bus stops, so bike riders are safe from drivers backing out into them or opening their doors in front of them.
There will be more on-street car parks than now, with more angle parking restored outside the Presentz/Dear Reader block and more parallel parking outside the Harvest organic foodstore block on the other side.
Many more mature trees will be planted, although some of the variations call for one tree to be removed – to allow the cycle lane to remain straight. If the tree stays, cyclists will have to ride around it and a couple of parks will be lost.
Faull told me he thinks most people are comfortable with losing the tree. For the sake of just two parks when there are so many more anyway? I think that's nuts. The tree in question is on the corner outside the fashion boutique Moa and it's one of the best on the street.
The bus stop outside Siostra restaurant and City Liquor will shift, but not because the booze shop has kicked up such a fuss. It's in front of a pedestrian crossing, which makes it dangerous. The new site will be either down the road a bit, or back up the road near the corner.
The pedestrian crossing by Harvest could shift further up. Faull says all the retailers are happy to have a crossing outside their shop, and that's not a surprise.
If the budget is big enough, they will also lower the road. The main value in this is to resolve some of the stormwater problems that were pre-existing or created by the earlier work.
Will the budget be big enough? Lisa Mein of Boffa Miskell told me Auckland Transport seems determined to get this right. She said people from several AT departments have assured her AT wants to show it listens to the public, fixes problems and is capable of doing excellent work. Good on them.
Joe Schady, AT's principal road development engineer, told me AT has "taken a lot of learnings on board throughout this process and we are confident that a great outcome will be delivered for the residents and businesses. We have had many conversations with the community about what can be improved, and we look forward to progressing the concept designs and talking again with locals in the coming months."
That's right, it isn't over yet. There's more talking to do and the work itself is probably a year away. But the time will quickly pass.
For AT, there is so much at stake. The project that symbolised what was wrong with the organisation is now the project that will show us how good it can be. Get this right and maybe we'll trust it to do this again. Get this right and it will have learned how to keep that trust. It's all rather splendid, for a change.
By the way, Boffa Miskell has also been looking at the badly compromised cycle lanes on nearby Surrey Cres and Garnet Rd. The results of its wide-consultation-plus-inspired-design approach will be out soon. The excitement is almost too much.