Auckland's High St will become a pedestrian-friendly zone in a trial to begin in October.
Council officials hope the popular street in the CBD could be transformed into a "world class, pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare" buy the end of 2022 – three years earlier than first planned.
While transport will still be allowed up High St, all carparks will be removed, dedicating more space for pedestrians.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and the council's planning committee chairman Chris Darby unveiled the proposal on High St this morning.
The trials will operate on a "co-design" model where High St businesses and residents will monitor and provide feedback, enabling the council to test and refine changes to the street to ensure the best possible final design.
Project completion could also be brought forward by three years, pending approval by the Finance and Performance Committee next month.
The trial would both look at whether High St's future should become a fully pedestrian precinct, or whether it should remain a shared space for pedestrians and vehicles.
"I have heard the calls of City Centre Advisory Board members and Aucklanders to just get on with it and I am proposing we accelerate this project by three years. Auckland's city centre needs to be rebalanced towards people," Goff said.
"We want to return streets to Aucklanders and create a thriving commercial and cultural area for residents, workers, students and visitors to enjoy, not simply a parking lot."
Goff said the costs of the permanent removal of carparks and alteration of curbs in 2022 could cost between $14million-$22m.
Statistics released by the council revealed there are 14 pedestrians for every one person in a vehicle on High St.
"Upgrading High St makes sense - large numbers of pedestrians are squeezed on to narrow footpaths by relatively few cars, reducing enjoyment, safety and air quality," Goff said.
"The changes we are making will transform and revitalise this iconic street and create a template for wider improvements across the city centre."
The trials will start in October and run for about seven months.
They will begin at the northern end of High St and progress further up the street over time, allowing input from residents and businesses to be incorporated throughout the trial and into the final design.
As well as improving pedestrian access to High St, a priority would also be to ensure the accessibility for service vehicles, emergency services and those with disabilities. Those factors would also be brought into the final design.
"The success of our shared spaces has galvanised a growing public desire to hurry up the radical reconceptualising of High St," Darby said.
"We are changing the way we think about our urban streets, fostering design that recognises the vitality of people as the anchor of city life. Where pedestrians outnumber cars by 1400 per cent as on High St, personal mobility and enjoyment trumps parking and kerbs to bring people out on the street. It's time to trigger that change.
"We will ask people to tell us their experiences and finalise a plan for the city centre, as well as look at how the concept can be scaled to apply to local centres."
Pauanesia is a small independent retail story selling textiles and homewares designed by Kiwi artists that has operated on High St for 24 years.
Eva Greensill who works there said anything that will affect foot traffic during the construction stage of the High St alterations will "impact our business quite hugely".
"For the period that it is disruptive I know that it will be a huge blow for our business," Greensill said.
"It's a pity as well because the store is quite unique in the way it's something different, everything's got integrity, everything's got stories and it would be such a shame if it had to close because there wasn't enough customers through here."
Crane Brothers managing director Murray Crane said the construction phase of the High St alterations, will inevitably impact their retail trade.
"There's no question that it will affect retail trade, it will," Crane said.
"That's why it's important to get the investment of retailers because it does have an impact on business.
"But if we manage that we should be able to mitigate that as much as we can. I mean Albert St has had an impact, City Rail has an impact, Commercial Bay has an impact.
"You know we've been battered and bruised in the last five years when it comes to the central city.
"So you need to have the long term vision but you also have to make sure you make it to the end [of the construction process]."