Will Mission Bay be transformed with buildings rising up to seven storeys? Or will developers of the $200 million project be sent back to the drawing board?
A decision on a grand but divisive plan to reshape the hub of one of Auckland's most popular beaches is expected on October 8, the Weekend Herald understands.
Long-time developers Urban Partners, founded as Retail Holdings by brothers Haydn and Mark Staples in 1983, applied for Auckland Council resource consent to demolish buildings on a 6527sq m block between Tāmaki Dr, Patteson Ave and Marau Crescent.
The brothers have built up ownership of the site over the past three decades.
But the plan has run into strong opposition with height, scale, design and viewing lines to the Hauraki Gulf common themes.
The design includes art deco references to the existing architectural flavour. The plan includes up to 100 apartments and 265 basement carparks, retail and hospitality spaces and a cinema multiplex.
Existing buildings would be demolished and replaced with seven new buildings, four of which exceed height limits specified in the new Unitary Plan, Auckland's planning rule book. The tallest - on the corner of Tamaki Drive and Patteson Avenue - would be seven storeys plus a mezzanine and 28m.
The site is zoned Business - Local Centre in the Unitary Plan, which allows buildings up to 16, high, plus a 2m allowance for the roof.
A resource consent application drew a strong response with almost 700 submissions, of which 70 were in favour. Thirty people made submissions in person at the hearing held over six days in July and August.
Neighbours, including owners of multimillion-dollar homes on nearby Ronaki Rd, whose view to the gulf will be significantly affected are among those strongly opposed.
They include Don and Wendy Stock, who told the hearing the development was a "totally different scale to current buildings" and the project would "fundamentally change the essence of Mission Bay".
Comments from others living in the area included:
"It will just be a large concrete structure with no soul."
"The bulk and appearance is out of character with the present charm."
"Local residents have made investments and lifestyle choices on the legitimate expectation that the zoning limitations would govern any property developments."
"Extraordinary circumstances required to waive Unitary Plan limits don't exist. [The design] should incorporate more useful public space that is better connected to the Mission Bay beach and reserves."
The Ōrākei Community Board also has strong reservations. It is "very concerned that four of the seven buildings proposed do not comply with already more generous height maximums and the applicant seeks to considerably infringe the building height controls in places".
Though the board's comments don't constitute a formal submission, the Local Government Act allows it to make the interests and preferences of the people in the area known.
The board supported the development only if all aspects complied with the Unitary Plan.
It said Mission Bay had a unique sense of place", provided a much-loved amphitheatre for both locals and visitors and had a blend of coastal village charm and thriving hospitality sustained by historically lower-rise development.
Among those in support is whiteware company founder Gary Paykel, a Remuera resident, who said it would "bring a much-needed upgrade to the area, while retaining its identity and purpose".
The Berkeley Cinema is much-loved, he said, and he was pleased to see a multiplex cinema included and a focus on food and beverage outlets retained, while new accommodation would boost the area and replacing flats on Marau Crescent would be "a significant improvement on what is currently there".
Project director Doug Osborne earlier told the Weekend Herald that heights ranged from 11m to 28.2m and the development aimed to provide a gateway from the hills to the beach.
Independent input included Auckland Council's urban design panel.
"All agreed this iconic location supports a proud gateway to a vibrant town centre and provides a visual focus to Mission Bay."
Developer Haydn Staples, who is Auckland-raised and lives in nearby St Heliers, has swum at Mission Bay since he was a boy and is said to want to provide a development the community can be proud of.
The site comprises the southern side of Tāmaki Drive, the eastern side of Patteson Ave and the northern side of Marau Crescent.
A chartered accountant, Staples moved into property development via retail having co-founded the Paulls and Dress For Less retailing chains.
His company began to buy property in Mission Bay in 1983 and owns 60 per cent of the commercial area, which it has transformed into a thriving hospitality precinct.