Sunday, June 26, 2016

Council Public Space Sale Unjustified

You'll have to wait until July 18th to see the evidence and hear the legal arguments for and against Auckland Council's decision to sell Auckland's Queen Elizabeth Square, but it's time for an airing of some of the information that has emerged.

After it's 15 May 2014 "in principle" decision to sell Queen Elizabeth Square, Auckland Council began a flurry of post-decision justification activities, including commissioning a piece of work from Gehl Architects. That work was presented to Councillors a month later, along with other studies. The Gehl report findings were encapsulated in two pages:



I would describe this assessment as reasonably balanced. The urban design evidence that will be presented at the environment court hearing in three weeks time is wide-ranging and extensive and thoughtful. However one opinion expressed in the expert evidence for the proponents of selling Queen Elizabeth Square (Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and Precinct Properties) and for using the money on alternative spaces on Queens Wharf or Quay Street - spaces that are already in public ownership - uses these words:

...it is irretrievably damaged...

The purpose of this posting is to examine what has happened in the last few weeks, to share some of what has come to light, and to challenge that assessment.

The first things to share are the renderings of downtown redevelopment proposals that don't presume the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square, and which propose to redress the first of the Gehl problems.

This image is part of the information describing the Precinct Properties proposal to redevelop its downtown land without developing Queen Elizabeth Square (well - not above ground - carparking is proposed under QE Square which will make up for carparks lost under the tower because of the CRL tunnel).

This proposal was consented on a non-notified basis on 6th June 2015. If you look closely you will see two laneways that access QE Square in its South West corner. One of these is East West (to Lower Albert), the other is North South ( to Custom Street). Combining these lanes with proposals to activate the edges of QE Square in this development, will completely transform the feel and function of QE Square. As the Precinct Property and Westfield renderings accompanying their respective consent applications show:



The first of these relates to the non-notified Precinct application, the second to Westfield's similar non-notified application granted in 21 April 2008. You can see that the proposed redevelopments completely transform the function and feel of Queen Elizabeth Square.

Which brings me to shade....
This diagram is a factual representation of the shading experienced downtown on the 22 December of any year, between 9:00am and 5:00pm at hourly intervals. Thus the top left diagram shows that QE Square is almost entirely bathed in sunshine, and that significant areas and edges of QE Square get sun throughout the day. Similar sunlight patterns will exist November through January - the summer months - when it's holiday time, cruise ships visit. And so on. Yes - QE Square is shaded in the middle of the day when the sun is lower at other seasons, but it experiences morning sunshine throughout the year, and in the mid afternoons. At other times the square is bathed in reflected light from Zurich Tower windows. This effect - common in public spaces in cities like New York - will be increased when the new Precinct Tower goes up. And contrary to popular myth - apart from when the wind is from the North East, QE Square is sheltered from wind.

Which brings me to the bus shelter problem...


The bus shelter structures & barriers have gone. Demolished. And that bus interchange moved and relocated in Lower Albert Street. Auckland's downtown civic square is in the process of being reinstated as it was.

So much for "irretrievably damaged".

But QE Square will be irretrievably damaged if Auckland Council sells it to Precinct Properties.


The zoning for QE Square that is being sought by Precinct Properties allows the building bulk and location shown in outline in this photomontage. This additional retail development would irretrievably damage Auckland's downtown and CBD.

So. The problems identified by Gehl are already being addressed and can be solved by implementing the consented plan. The potentials for this part of Auckland's downtown civic space - as identified by Gehl (above) - would be lost if it was sold. And in exchange the $27 million sale price is ear-marked by Auckland Council for public spaces on waterfront land that are already in public ownership.

Members of Auckland's design community have organised to challenge the basis of the statutory processes needed to allow this sale to go ahead. We oppose the sale and do not support what it will lead to Auckland.
That challenge comes to a head in the environment court on Monday 18th July. A Give A Little campaign has been set up by Auckland Architectural Association to raise necessary funds.

Readers and supporters of this blog are encouraged to donate, and to donate soon.

It's not just your money that we need.  It's your name as well - though we respect and understand the need for confidentiality and GiveALittle allows you to donate anonymously.

For the sake of Auckland, and to SaveOurSquare from being turned into a shopping mall, please donate.





1 comment:

Rod Mead said...

I remember that QE Square was first 'irreparably damaged' in about 1966, by the construction of the Air NZ tower (No. 1 Queen St) which did, in fact, cause a wind-tunnel effect and make the square cold and draughty for much of the day. Before this it was a particularly sunny area where I often strolled during my lunch hour.

A number of prominent architects had warned the council that this would happen. The council was operating according to its own agenda and disagreed.

Rod Mead, Westmere

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Council Public Space Sale Unjustified

You'll have to wait until July 18th to see the evidence and hear the legal arguments for and against Auckland Council's decision to sell Auckland's Queen Elizabeth Square, but it's time for an airing of some of the information that has emerged.

After it's 15 May 2014 "in principle" decision to sell Queen Elizabeth Square, Auckland Council began a flurry of post-decision justification activities, including commissioning a piece of work from Gehl Architects. That work was presented to Councillors a month later, along with other studies. The Gehl report findings were encapsulated in two pages:



I would describe this assessment as reasonably balanced. The urban design evidence that will be presented at the environment court hearing in three weeks time is wide-ranging and extensive and thoughtful. However one opinion expressed in the expert evidence for the proponents of selling Queen Elizabeth Square (Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and Precinct Properties) and for using the money on alternative spaces on Queens Wharf or Quay Street - spaces that are already in public ownership - uses these words:

...it is irretrievably damaged...

The purpose of this posting is to examine what has happened in the last few weeks, to share some of what has come to light, and to challenge that assessment.

The first things to share are the renderings of downtown redevelopment proposals that don't presume the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square, and which propose to redress the first of the Gehl problems.

This image is part of the information describing the Precinct Properties proposal to redevelop its downtown land without developing Queen Elizabeth Square (well - not above ground - carparking is proposed under QE Square which will make up for carparks lost under the tower because of the CRL tunnel).

This proposal was consented on a non-notified basis on 6th June 2015. If you look closely you will see two laneways that access QE Square in its South West corner. One of these is East West (to Lower Albert), the other is North South ( to Custom Street). Combining these lanes with proposals to activate the edges of QE Square in this development, will completely transform the feel and function of QE Square. As the Precinct Property and Westfield renderings accompanying their respective consent applications show:



The first of these relates to the non-notified Precinct application, the second to Westfield's similar non-notified application granted in 21 April 2008. You can see that the proposed redevelopments completely transform the function and feel of Queen Elizabeth Square.

Which brings me to shade....
This diagram is a factual representation of the shading experienced downtown on the 22 December of any year, between 9:00am and 5:00pm at hourly intervals. Thus the top left diagram shows that QE Square is almost entirely bathed in sunshine, and that significant areas and edges of QE Square get sun throughout the day. Similar sunlight patterns will exist November through January - the summer months - when it's holiday time, cruise ships visit. And so on. Yes - QE Square is shaded in the middle of the day when the sun is lower at other seasons, but it experiences morning sunshine throughout the year, and in the mid afternoons. At other times the square is bathed in reflected light from Zurich Tower windows. This effect - common in public spaces in cities like New York - will be increased when the new Precinct Tower goes up. And contrary to popular myth - apart from when the wind is from the North East, QE Square is sheltered from wind.

Which brings me to the bus shelter problem...


The bus shelter structures & barriers have gone. Demolished. And that bus interchange moved and relocated in Lower Albert Street. Auckland's downtown civic square is in the process of being reinstated as it was.

So much for "irretrievably damaged".

But QE Square will be irretrievably damaged if Auckland Council sells it to Precinct Properties.


The zoning for QE Square that is being sought by Precinct Properties allows the building bulk and location shown in outline in this photomontage. This additional retail development would irretrievably damage Auckland's downtown and CBD.

So. The problems identified by Gehl are already being addressed and can be solved by implementing the consented plan. The potentials for this part of Auckland's downtown civic space - as identified by Gehl (above) - would be lost if it was sold. And in exchange the $27 million sale price is ear-marked by Auckland Council for public spaces on waterfront land that are already in public ownership.

Members of Auckland's design community have organised to challenge the basis of the statutory processes needed to allow this sale to go ahead. We oppose the sale and do not support what it will lead to Auckland.
That challenge comes to a head in the environment court on Monday 18th July. A Give A Little campaign has been set up by Auckland Architectural Association to raise necessary funds.

Readers and supporters of this blog are encouraged to donate, and to donate soon.

It's not just your money that we need.  It's your name as well - though we respect and understand the need for confidentiality and GiveALittle allows you to donate anonymously.

For the sake of Auckland, and to SaveOurSquare from being turned into a shopping mall, please donate.





1 comment:

Rod Mead said...

I remember that QE Square was first 'irreparably damaged' in about 1966, by the construction of the Air NZ tower (No. 1 Queen St) which did, in fact, cause a wind-tunnel effect and make the square cold and draughty for much of the day. Before this it was a particularly sunny area where I often strolled during my lunch hour.

A number of prominent architects had warned the council that this would happen. The council was operating according to its own agenda and disagreed.

Rod Mead, Westmere