An inner-city Auckland public square will become a dark, windy, shaded "gully" once a neighbouring 41-level, $250 million apartment/hotel project rises, a neighbouring property chief says.
But the Australian developer of the new Indigo Hotel and apartments says that neighbour was not unhappy with plans, the proposal complied with planning regulations and demolishing a parking building for units would benefit the square.
Lawyer Gregory Shanahan of the Cathedral of St Patrick and St Joseph said that the heritage structure cathedral was already monstered by tall office towers. But Australian developer 94 Feet's scheme for neighbouring 51 Albert St would have the worst effect of any new block.
"We're starting to be in a gully, surrounded by monstrously high buildings out of all proportion to the space," Shanahan said, citing noise and dirt during the two-year-plus construction phase as well as shading, overlooking and wind shears as other permanent negative effects.
"You can develop in this manner and that's a tragedy that's happened, without the foresight to recognise the impact such high rise development has on the boundaries of the square."
Shanahan headed committees to raise $13m for the Fletcher Construction-led cathedral upgrade/restoration in 2013 and this year finishing the $3.8m neighbouring presbytery upgrade.
Auckland Council spent $9.2m renovating surrounding St Patrick's Square off Wyndham and Swanson Sts and Shanahan said that work had "restored its pedestrian status".
So more than $26m has been spent in the past few years on the area and two privately-owned heritage buildings.
But Shanahan now fears that has all been compromised by square access for construction vehicles to 94 Feet's site, whereas originally Albert St was to be the access point.
Heavy construction vehicles were driving through the square to the building site until the cathedral re-erected bollards, Shanahan said, to restrict access.
He blames the Auckland Unitary Plan for such tall towers alongside St Patrick's Square.
"There hasn't been the foresight to recognise the impact such high-rise development has on the boundary of this square and the amenity value of the square and what it means for Auckland. There was no vision, no foresight - a lack of great vision for the city. The effect is piecemeal."
Development of the high-rise Park Residences by Conrad Properties on Swanson St opposite the ANZ Centre on the square's edge was detrimental, Shanahan said. Yet developers were doing nothing wrong and simply complying with the plan, he stressed.
The developer of 51 Albert St is finishing site demolition, ready to build a $250m 41-level hotel and apartment tower.
Dean Rzechta, managing director of 94 Feet, said work on the planned Indigo Hotel and apartment project started early last year but had been delayed some months by the pandemic.
Australian builder Icon won the contract for more than $100m, Rzechta said, "and it's a 24-month build. We were due to kick off pre-Covid but it was delayed. Work was to start on May 11, but we've paused, gone into lockdown and stalled consents with Auckland Council when it did not process non-essential consents".
"We will mobilise the site again before the end of the year."
Architects are Australia's WMK of Melbourne and Scott Carver of Sydney.
"Early works involved demolition late last year, with code of compliance issued in February/March this year for the first building consent which was the enabling works," Rzechta said.
"It was far more than demolition and cost more than $6m. We had to prop the facades, pile, excavate and knock down the existing four-level Wilson Carpark. It was quite difficult works because we're keeping the facades, so it was a live environment and a very sensitive interface with the neighbours who are the Catholic Cathedral of the Auckland Diocese."
Retail tenants neighboured the property and $4.4 billion City Rail Link works caused further headaches, he said.
"It was transport, logistics, truck movements - we just didn't have free and unfettered access to that site. A lot of it was one-way traffic or roads were closed. New Zealand is a hard place to work.
"It's been an easy transition from Australia, everyone's been warmer and more welcoming but also I joke when I say New Zealand is Australia 10 years ago. It's still coming to terms with its position in the world and operation in business. A lot of the planning and building consent processes are very cumbersome when they could be a lot more streamlined.
"It's a 225-room hotel and 29 apartments."
The hotel will operate up to level 30 and the apartments will be on the remaining 11 floors.
Apartments range from 72sq m, selling from $1.5m, to 350sq m selling from $7m with one double-floor penthouse of around 700sq m which is being advertised at $15m. Bayleys was marketing the apartments but now Sotheby's International Realty has the contract.
Of the 29 units, deposits of 10 per cent have been taken for 15 apartments, Rzechta said.
"We're well over 50 per cent presold," Rzechta said, adding that amounted to more than $50m.
"It was always going to have apartments. The consent in place before we bought was strictly apartments. We added the hotel component on the lower levels.
"We're retaining the facade of the Macdonald Halligan Motors company building at 51-53 Albert St. The existing consent in place when we bought the property three years ago allowed for the demolition of the facade and building. We decided to retain both facades: the front on Albert St and the back on St Patrick's Square."
Keeping the facade brought criticism from heritage advocate Allan Matson but Rzechta rejected that.
"I don't buy that it's facadism because this is a sensitive approach we're taking," Rzechta said today.
"A lot of heritage buildings need to be activated, engaged and spoken to. You need to gentry facades to make the addresses relevant, while also being sensitive. I think we've done a good job. The setbacks of the tower above the facades gives definition between the heritage structure and the modern tower."
The building is listed in the Auckland Unitary Plan as a Category B building, saying it is significant.