Viv Beck: A city centre in evolution
This piece by our CEO Viv Beck was originally published in the Colliers LEASE 2019 magazine (pg 39).
This is a fascinating time in the city centre, with change occurring in how the city looks, the people spending time in it and how we do things.
Even if you notice them every day, you may be surprised to learn that in the last three months of 2018, there were 79 cranes dotting the skyline, many of them in the city centre. This is more than in any city in the United States, where Seattle tops the list with 59.
If the sky offers a glimpse into the city centre’s future, on the ground we’re seeing it take shape – Downtown will have new public spaces by late 2020 and the City Rail Link is moving towards completion in 2024. There are also many private developments underway, including the opening of Commercial Bay this year which will form a new anchor for retail and hospitality at the juncture between the waterfront and Queen Street.
There is no doubt that growth does bring challenges, not least the impact of road cones and many concurrent projects. However, the statistics tell us the city centre remains buoyant and attractive to businesses and customers.
Commercial vacancy rates are at a record low at 3.5%*, while retail spending continues to track upwards – our December quarter spending results saw a tidy 2.5% year-on-year increase. These results reinforce what we’re seeing everyday – new businesses believing that the city centre is where they want to be and worthy of their investment. It’s also where people want to be – the city centre is growing six times faster than the rest of Auckland, with the diverse residential population forecast to double in the next decade. This has already changed the city from a place people come to just to work, to one where people are choosing to spend their leisure time as well.
The way people are getting here continues to change too. For the first time since the 1950s more people are coming in by public transport than by car. When the City Rail Link starts operating, it will transform access to the city centre, carrying an estimated 54,000 peak-time passengers each hour and doubling the number of people within a 30-minute commute of the city centre.
Change is happening quickly – whether it’s the list of premium hotels opening this year or new technology providing easy, environmentally friendly ways to get around (just look at the uptake of e-scooters), the city centre is the place to be for businesses wanting to be part of this transformation.