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Submission on the Downtown Programme

Submission
Tuesday 12 Feb 2019

To: Auckland Council

Name of submitter: Heart of the City Inc. (‘HOTC’)

Introduction:

Heart of the City is the business association for the city centre, which includes more than 4000 commercially rated properties and 12,000+ businesses. We are committed to the growth and success of the city centre as an accessible, safe and welcoming urban community.

The city centre is the centre of the region’s economy.  It is growing at pace, with more than 120,000 workers, 57,000 residents and 60,000 students in the city centre, as well as buoyant national and international visitor numbers.

We are supportive of the ongoing transformation and investment in the city centre. Our members, the businesses and property owners in the centre, contribute $20M per annum via the city centre targeted rate towards the city centre transformation programme. Our interests are to ensure that this programme delivers the best outcome for the city centre – for business and for people who live, visit and work here. This includes ensuring that we enhance and improve the way in which people can access the city centre with a particular focus on servicing and loading, public transport provision and creating successful public spaces.

 

Overall:

There is much to like about the plans for downtown and we are broadly supportive of what is proposed. The aspirations for the downtown programme resonate with us. We want to see a unique and accessible waterfront and downtown area and one that connects this area back to the core city centre, maximising the connections and commercial investment in the area. This approach will deliver value and benefit to the city centre.

Given the value of public investment and the opportunity that this investment can bring, we need to ensure that what is planned will deliver high quality and memorable public spaces, will connect and link well to the surrounding areas – including the viaduct, the Queen Street environs, Britomart and the wider waterfront.  It must also meet the needs of our growing commercial, tourism and residential communities and importantly, it must align strategically with Council’s City Centre Master Plan and the 2012 Waterfront plan (which we are pleased will be combined as part of the upcoming refresh).

Whilst we are broadly supportive of what is trying to be achieved across the programme – we have a number of concerns, including:

That Aucklanders are only being asked to provide feedback on the ‘up till 2021’ plans. Whilst we understand that some of the project areas are still under investigation, it is important to indicate the long-term intention for the whole area, and importantly how they are integrated with each other. This is particularly relevant to the Quay Street west and Quay Street east project areas; as well as the long-term intent for Queen’s Wharf given the significant changes proposed for the wharf through the introduction of the mooring dolphin as well as the newly configured ferry terminal.
How the wider city centre traffic network will accommodate the rerouted Quay Street traffic as well as what, if any, additional infrastructure changes are required to accommodate any increase in traffic in other areas, including the Customs Street area. We would also like to understand how the plans for Downtown fit within the ‘Access for Everyone’ environment.
How we will see ‘great streets’ delivered in areas where significant bus infrastructure is proposed. Given recent issues on Albert Street in relation to the discussions about the introduction of ‘bus bays’ in the street we are not yet confident that Auckland Transport is able to deliver necessary bus infrastructure as well as great quality public realm that befits a growing and world class city centre.

 

Downtown public spaces: We like what is proposed for the new ‘downtown public space.’  It has the potential to create a memorable and exciting new public space for the waterfront – extending the experience of the pedestrian focused Quay Street, with its amphitheatre design, and its sunny and north facing aspect. We also value and appreciate the context and narrative behind the design that strives to connect with the water.  We particularly like the idea that the space will be experienced differently across the course of the day due the rise and fall of the tide, as well as the focus on supporting and nurturing the coastal marine environment through the specific ideas proposed.

We support the idea of creating seating and shaded options in the area, and the choice of pohutukawas to reinforce its waterfront location and connection with the surrounding areas. Please make sure that there are seats with backs and armrests, as well as give adequate consideration to lighting in the area so it is enjoyable and safe. This is likely to be a space that is well used at night – so careful consideration around site lines, lighting and placement of trees to make this a safe place is critical.

Downtown Ferry Basin redevelopment: We are supportive of building new ferry infrastructure to support existing and future growth of the ferry network, and from what we have been presented there is good logic about increasing full pedestrian access through the ferry terminals. However, there is inadequate public information available on Auckland Transport’s ‘Downtown’ programme pages on the AT website about what is proposed for the ferry project https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/downtown-programme/downtown-ferry-basin-redevelopment/

We would like confirmation from Auckland Transport on how ‘future proofed’ the new terminal is to accommodate growth in capacity and patronage of ferry services over time. We note that the terminal’s upgrade is a key action under the recently published Auckland’s Future Ferry Strategy and we also note that in the same document, under chapter six, “delivering the vision”, that there is an action to “Establish a permanent ferry terminal at Wynyard Quarter [complete upgrade of Downtown Ferry Terminal to increase capacity and resilience.]” We would like to understand the intent around the Wynyard Quarter terminal development and how this fits with the planned downtown ferry terminal – what is the role of the Wynyard quarter terminal vis a vis accommodating future ferry capacity needs?

Queen’s Wharf - the Mooring Dolphin and the new Ferry Terminal: It is remiss to have not included an indication of the long-term intent for the whole of Queen’s Wharf as part of the presentation of the downtown programme, particularly given the changes proposed – the extended ferry terminal and the mooring dolphin - since early plans for Queen’s Wharf were socialised with Aucklanders.  We are concerned that the proposed mooring dolphin will have a detrimental impact on the level of public accessibility, positive experience and enjoyment of the wharf for a growing city centre population and that is one of the reasons for our opposition to the 35-year resource consent for the dolphin. The consultation material does not indicate what these proposed changes will mean for the function, use and experience of the wharf.  This includes whether there will be a change in volume and/or frequency of vehicles needing to access the wharf, including for cruise provisioning and ferry drop offs, and we are concerned about the potential negative impact of this.

We would like confirmation of what is the intended operation for Queen’s Wharf with the planned ferry terminal upgrade as well as with the proposed mooring dolphin.  This includes what impacts these changes will have on events in the area, both during construction and when these works are completed.

Do the plans go far enough in realising Quay Street’s potential?

This is our “once in a lifetime” opportunity for Quay Street and adjacent spaces. The city will not be making this level of investment into these spaces for a very long time so let’s get it right the first time.

How will the traffic move?

We recognise that in order to create more people focused spaces, where traffic goes will have to change.  With the requirement for ‘through traffic’ needing to detour elsewhere away from Quay Street, we’d like to:

See ongoing monitoring and reporting of how the changes to traffic [lanes] in Quay Street,  being implemented as a result of the construction works, impact the wider city centre (and beyond) road network, and what impact these changes have on the operations and access for businesses in the area, including for loading and servicing. It would be useful to understand how any learnings may be applied to the permanent designs for the programme.
Understand how the A4E concept would relate to what is proposed for the downtown area. We understand that the introduction of the A4E concept could see a 20% overall reduction of traffic numbers in the city centre but that is some time away.  We also note that the current intent for Light Rail is to terminate at the bottom of Queen Street and for it not to proceed along Customs Street. What will this mean for the long-term plans for Customs Street?

 

Quay Street East:

We understand that the approach and thinking to this area is still under investigation. We would like:

Further explanation and understanding of how the project will deliver a ‘great street’ environment – with the planned bus infrastructure, how will the designs enhance not detract from the important heritage precinct of Britomart and support an enjoyable and safe public environment?

More information about whether having a bus interchange on Quay Street will deliver the best outcome –both functionally and aesthetically - for the city centre. How is this the best option over and above a more disbursed model, which may lessen the impact of having all the buses in one place?
To have a clearer understanding of how the plans for Quay Street east will seamlessly connect with what is planned for Quay Street west. 
To urge the Council family to work together to “get beyond the red fence” in this area to provide more space to deliver a great public realm environment for people as well as being able to accommodate necessary bus infrastructure (should it be determined that this is the best place to accommodate all buses).

Development Response & Construction impact

It is positive that the Downtown programme has a dedicated development response budget and team working on mitigating the impacts of construction. We are fully supportive of this model and we will be working in partnership with the team on relevant initiatives and plans as they progress over the term of the construction period.  It is critical that resource and budget does not get compromised or reduced in this area.  The downtown area is our ‘tourism hub’ and everything must be done to support the local businesses and retain its appeal as a place to spend time, attend events and connect with other parts of the city – locally and beyond.  In terms of construction impact we are most concerned about:

The overall experience of the construction site – unappealing environment, poor wayfinding and lack of information leading to people being turned off from visiting surrounding businesses and public spaces.
Access – for loading and servicing businesses, pedestrian access to businesses and event venues, and connections with public transport modes – including ferry and cruise.
Business impact and downturn.
Safety, particularly ensuring that people can get safely home from the many hospitality venues, is also a critical for this area. Temporary light and easy access to transport options is critical to this.

Thank you for providing the opportunity to respond to plans for Downtown.

 

Viv Beck
Chief Executive
Heart of the City

Email for correspondence: tania@hotcity.co.nz