Construction to extend the waterfront boundary of downtown Auckland by 1800 square metres for a $35 million tree-covered "showpiece" public space has begun this week.
Auckland Transport's (AT) Downtown Public Space project will be constructed over the next 12 months, and create a paved area for the public in the ferry basin between Princes Wharf and Queens Wharf.
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When completed, an elevated "tidal shelf" will jut out over Waitematā Harbour from Quay St, suspended by piles rising several metres above water level.
The space will have numerous pohutukawa groves, public seating, and a mussel rope system filtering dirty stormwater beneath the platform connected to the seabed.
AT's Eric Van Essen oversees the work, one of six major projects being constructed to "transform" Auckland's waterfront landscape in time for the 2021 America's Cup.
Van Essen says the downtown public space is Auckland Council's effort to return some city public land to Aucklanders after Queen Elizabeth Square was sold to Precinct Properties Limited in 2016.
"I think this is special in that's new additional public space people can enjoy. It's not just a resurfacing of Quay St," Van Essen said.
"It's a showcase, it's very prominent sitting out across the top of the water, you'll see it as you come in on the ferry services.
"It will be an area that will serve as a bit of respite from the thoroughfare of Quay St - sit down, have a bite to eat, meet people, linger there, it's pretty special."
The project has also already won an award at the Resene New Institute of Landscape Architects in November in the Unbuilt Visionary Category.
Van Essen confirmed the Downtown Public Space project has remained at its original costing of $35 million. The entire project is costing $332 million.
However in November, the Herald reported the Quay St "enhancement" project directly next to the downtown public space programme had blown out by $13 million to $72.15 million.
Van Essen denied there would be any further disruption to the traffic congestion along Quay St, which has been reduced to a single lane since December last year to allow construction supplies to be delivered.
"A lot of construction deliveries would occur outside of typical hours," Van Essen said.
"They'll try to avoid [peak] times for deliveries of materials."
"We narrowed the traffic down along Quay St early in the piece so people could become accustomed how to navigate through."
AA's Barney Irvine was unsure if the new project would make Quay St traffic worse - but noted he "wasn't sure how much worse it could get".
"Not nearly enough forethought seems to have been given to east west connectivity in the city," Irvine said.
"East west connectivity is a real challenge, and we've seen a lot of [construction] decisions made without anywhere enough planning on how we are coping with the amount of traffic that gets rerouted away from the central city.
"The longer Quay St construction goes on for it cannot help the situation."
Construction on the public space will, however, have several impacts on the already heavily disrupted Quay St.
Pedestrians will be diverted off the northern side of Quay St for 100m or so between the permanent eastern and western kiosks near the ferry terminal.
The temporary walkway through this northern side of Quay St will be closed.
Pedestrians will have to exclusively use the south side of the street from December 9 until the downtown public space project is eventually completed in December 2020.
Piers 3A and 3B at the Downtown Ferry Terminal have already closed and the West Harbour and Rakino ferry services will move to Pier 4 West, meaning new queuing arrangements at Pier 4, and some minor changes to the West Harbour timetable.
From Monday, December 23, the terminal's temporary ramp will also be completely closed and ferry services will shift from Pier 3C/D to Pier 1C.
Once the 2021 America's Cup has finished by the end of March that year, AT also wants to extend the public space "tidal shelf" all the way towards Queens Wharf, removing Piers 1 and 2 of the ferry terminal.
Van Essen stresses, no money has been confirmed for the work yet.