One of Auckland city's busiest and narrowest single-lane streets, High St, is set to become more "pedestrian-friendly" - but whether cars will be permanently banned is still up in the air.
A trial beginning in October to remove on-street parking along High St will be undertaken by Auckland Council in order to inform how they will "transform" the street permanently in 2022 - at a cost of up to $22 million.
The October trial will remove parking from the northern end of High St using temporary "fabricated place kits" which will widen the footpaths.
"While these trials are not permanent structures, the intention is to rebalance how the road reserve is used, and will be testing whether the street should have all on-street parking permanently removed and possibly become a fully pedestrianised precinct, or shared space," a spokesperson from Auckland Mayor Phil Goff's office said.
During the seven-month trial beginning in October, private vehicles will still be allowed to drive along High St, but they won't be able to park.
The parking removal trial is described as "iterative" by Auckland Council, and will gradually move up High St over the seven months.
"Car parking will be removed from the lower end of the street (northern end) first and then be progressively removed further up the street," the mayor's spokesperson said.
"This is to allow input from affected property owner/occupiers to be incorporated as we progress."
The place kits used to block off High St parking "will be of a high-quality finish to develop a world-class retail experience and will be recycled for use on other pedestrian projects in future", the Mayor's office said.
Auckland Council said throughout the October parking removal trail they will ensure accessibility for service vehicles, emergency services and those with disabilities.
Such accessibility will also be part of any final design to High St - whatever that may be.
"The primary purpose of the co-design [place kit] model on this project is to ensure that all the retailers and business owners on High Street are on board – they will play a significant role in how the trial evolves over time and the final design," the mayor's office said.
"We actually expect that life will be easier for delivery/service vehicles because they won't have to compete with private vehicles."
Goff said the cost of the transformation will cost between $14m and $22m and largely be funded by Auckland city centre targeted rate, which is paid by the CBD businesses and residents.
In a press-conference on High St today, Goff announced the delivery of the permanent "transformation" of High St would be brought forward three years from what was originally projected - to 2022.
"We will learn from the trial, which means that when we actually start spending the serious money on this street, we will have got it right. So yes, with all speed we've halved the amount of time [to 2022 delivery date]," Goff said.
Goff said there may need to be some financial input from the council to fund the upgrade in addition to city centre targeted rate payers - depending on the "final nature of the design".
Traffic and pedestrian counts reveal there are 14 pedestrians for every one person in a vehicle on High Street.
Goff said other streets in Auckland City that may need to be transformed into more "pedestrian-friendly" include Federal St, Victoria St Linear Park, and streets around the Waterfront Park near Quay St.
Goff said Auckland Council would also be looking to pedestrianise Queen St when it is "dug up" for construction on light rail within the next 10 years.
In Auckland already Vulcan Lane and Durham St East are full pedestrian with no cars allowed.
Pedestrian and vehicle shared space thoroughfares in Auckland city include Fort St, Jean Batten Place, O'Connell St and Elliott St.
Auckland Councillor Chris Darby said council staff have already consulted with numerous High St businesses over how they would cope with a more pedestrian-friendly street, and the disruptive construction phase.
"Our teams have been marching up and down the street talking to business, property owners, good liaison with Heart of the City as well," Darby said.
"There is a very strong single voice to get on and have a crack on with this street."
However, businesses along High St who spoke to the Herald were all open about the toll the construction phase would have on their retail trade.
Pauanesia is a small independent retail story selling textiles and homewares designed by Kiwi artists which 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]."