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Businesses choose the city centre for connection and character

News story
Tuesday 5 Dec 2017

In the past year, the number of businesses in the heart of Auckland city has grown by 2.2%, bringing the total to almost 12,0001. Why have all of these businesses chosen to be here? Although factors in this decision will be as varied as the businesses themselves, to a large extent they boil down to the connection and character that the city centre offers.

We’ve recently seen the return of the gift and design store The Vault, which has a 25-year history in the city, and asked owner Sarah Solaris about her decision to return to the High Street District after a brief hiatus out of the city.

One of the reasons Sarah gives for her businesses’ return was the number of potential customers in her target market. “You’ve got a captive audience… people who work there and the tourists, which is a great market for us.”

Sarah Solaris, The Vault, Chancery Square

Being near the right people is also a strong theme in a Gravitas report for Auckland Council2 looking at business location decisions for professional services business. As one research participant said, “We want to be in the vibrant CBD where you’re running into, bumping into your clients basically.”

Of course, connection is more than just being where customers are. Whether it’s proximity to top restaurants to host clients or being near the bank for cash deposits, businesses need the right mix of shops, hospitality and services for their staff, clients and customers as well as good transport options. Being close to everything that businesses need is more than just a nice to have; a recent Auckland Council study3 found that walkability within Auckland’s CBD is likely to make a positive contribution to economic productivity.

The character of the city and the precincts and buildings within it is another key factor, says Sarah.

“The historic buildings really give the place a lot of character. The city’s squares and the public spaces make it more user friendly, good for tourists and people who work here. There’s been hugely positive change in last five years - Britomart is gorgeous, the laneways look great, Freyberg Square looks a million dollars. Aesthetically and practically, things seem to be moving in the right direction with how the city looks thanks to council and some private developers.”

The physical environment is only part of the city’s character. A CBD location is associated with being ‘interesting and vibrant’, ‘prestige’ and ‘professional’, according to the Gravitas report, which says that for some, location is “an essential statement of the calibre of their organisation”.  

Design, transport and social changes ahead should further enhance the city’s desirability as a business location. Continued public investment with funding from the city centre targeted rate, making the city more people-friendly with shared spaces and a laneway circuit, benefits business. As Sarah says, “I’m really pro-pedestrianisation, I think it’s a fabulous thing, the way of the future. Who wants to compete with cars when you want to stroll around and get your lunch?”

Just how we’ve seen significant development in Britomart since the opening of the train station there, huge transformation has already begun along the route of the City Rail Link, with $2 billion of private sector investment along Albert St expected between 2016 and 2021. 

With the city centre residential population projected to grow another 25% to reach 50,0004 in the next decade and with opportunities like the America’s Cup acting as a catalyst for further legacy development of the city centre, we look forward to seeing how the connection and character here evolve, making the city centre an even more attractive and successful place to do business.

  1. Infometrics Auckland City Centre Economic Profile 
  2. ‘Drivers of business location in the Auckland CBD’, prepared for Auckland Council by Gravitas Research and Strategy, 23 November 2011.
  3. 'The relationship between pedestrian connectivity and economic productivity in Auckland’s city centre', Auckland Council, March 2017
  4. Statistics NZ population projections as at June 2016