The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
April 10, 2014

Kumutoto views

So it seems as though the WCC have decided to give permission to go ahead, to the developer of the project at Kumutoto. Seems like only last week they were having a hearing – and so it seems a little early to have made a decision – given the normal glacial rate of progress on decisions in this fine city of ours…

Apparently this is a permission only to take it to the next level – of a “detailed design and commercial case” phase, but it is worth having a look at some of the cases made for and against the building. Hmmm. If only I could – there seems to be nothing left on the WCC website right now – hopefully that will be rectified some time soon. I’d like to note that, according to Stuff:
“The decision was made with minimal debate, despite divided public opinion on the design – earlier this year, the council received 97 submissions for and 99 against the proposal.”
Hmmm again. Minimal debate. I’m guessing that not everyone sees this decision as “minimal debate.” So – what do we know? What we know so far is that:

“The design approved today comes in 3.7m higher. It also includes a public gallery and shopping space on the ground floor and potentially a public space on the roof. The rooftop access dominated the discussion at today’s transport and urban development committee, after officers recommended public access should no longer be a requirement because of health and safety concerns.
However, an amendment suggested by committee chairman Andy Foster and moved by Justin Lester successfully added the need to “use best endeavours” to explore ways to ensure roof access to a list of other design considerations – such as wind management and vehicle access – that will now be developed further. Foster said the extra level was one of the biggest issues with the building, and making sure it offered a public benefit was essential. “That for me is one of the reasons for having the extra height.”

Pity I missed it – sounds like a riveting time. Officers recommending that public access not be a requirement because of health and safety… you’re kind of missing the plot guys. This building needs to be ALL about public access, and you better believe it. Don’t argue it away for us.

A lot of discussion from Waterfront Watch, at least, I know would have centred on the views out across the site. While the actual purpose of the site certainly is a point of valid issue – do we want the site to be occupied by an office building, or do we want it to be left vacant for the people of Wellington on which to gather? The views over the site seem to be a more dubious issue to me. Should someone really be prioritising the view across the site as they sail merrily past in their car? Or as they walk past the site? Let’s just have a look at the site. This is it by night:

OK. I’m really not that impressed by that view – that’s the one I see most of the time, when I’m driving along the waterfront at night. As you do. Is it better by day?

I mean – really? Is that it? Honest to god, this is a snap taken from the other side of the road. Damn cars. Cars everywhere. To me, not much of a view. So I then went to the middle. Risked my life getting across the highway, just to get the view. Yes, there is some sky, but here I was, walking into the middle of the road, standing on the median strip, the highest thing around (the view would be worse on the pavement, as it is lower…) and trying to get a photo of this fabled great view. Now, normally, people would just be driving past in their cars, eyes focused ahead, looking out for the traffic… not looking out at this apparently great view.

But of course, that’s being mean. There IS a great view, behind the fence, and the hedge, and the cars, and the campervans, and the big sheds on the waterfront. Kind of like this view here:

Still not really doing it for me though, and that’s a randomly selected point on that street, looking out to the harbour view. Bugger all sea that I can see there, that’s for sure. There’s a far off glimpse of Mt Victoria, and even a tiny strip of the hills behind Eastbourne, but mostly what we can see is the derelict former TopCat ferry terminal, which as far as I know hasn’t been used for the last 10 years or so.

So this is a better look at that view. There’s parts of it that are quite nice. We can imagine, couple of years down the line, that the stupid hedge and that dumb fence might have gone, along with the cruddy line of big white campervans that have no business being in the front line of our city. Can we get rid of that damn big shed next? Why isn’t someone protesting about that damn ugly turquoise lump of a building?

Or, seeing as this is the only picture we have from any vaguely similar angle, would it be better to have something like this?

davidp
10 - 04 - 14

>Why isn’t someone protesting about that damn ugly turquoise lump of a building?

I had no idea it was unused. I’d vaguely assumed it was something to do with Bluebridge’s services.

I think the new building is great. I think we need a few developments to knit the main waterfront to the office precinct with BNZ, Customs, and Statistics. It’d be nice if the later were part of Wellington’s waterfront promenade route.

I think the biggest issues with the building are its setting, with the honking great road and the completely dead street front that the Post Office building presents to the world. The Quays are pretty miserable until the split at Taranaki St, where the two one-way sections semi-integrate themselves in to Te Aro even if they are still too wide.

Maximus
10 - 04 - 14

davidp – its a good question as to whether it is used or not – it probably is full of freight in some form or another, wharf companies love to fill up sheds with stuff – nearly all their existing wharf sheds have been filled with logs – i kid you not, what a stupid waste. But yes, with the turquoise shed – haven’t seen anyone go in or out of there for years. Obviously, i’m not watching all the time, but it is certainly not used as a passenger terminal anymore. Perhaps, as it is near the Wharf Police, maybe it is filled with illegal contraband? Barrels of rum, scotch whiskey, confiscated cigarettes and legal highs past their abuse-by-date?

And yes, your comments re the proposed new building make sense too. This building has the potential to be great, if the architects are up to the challenge. The best that it could be for Wellington.

Athfield Architects: we challenge you to do great things to this site! Make it so…

davidp
10 - 04 - 14

Just want to dial down the “great” comment. It doesn’t have to be literally great like, say, the Gherkin or the Sydney Opera House. It just has to be a pleasant interesting building like Meridian, or the new BNZ, or Telecom Central on Willis St, or the library. Because by meeting that standard it’d already be better than just about every post-1950 building along Lambton Quay or Featherston St.

It makes no sense to me how some extremely low value activities take place on high value land. In general these activities are conducted by publicly owned organisations. Surely if the land was valued correctly, they would show a pitiful rate of return? And how do we charge rates for these prime-but-neglected sites? The rail yards have an area that is about the same as the entire CBD, and we use it to re-arrange trains on the doorstep of parliament. The port is better, but port activity should really be consolidating towards the inter-island ferry terminal.

If it were up to me, I’d consolidate the port as described and develop the area between Statistics and the water edge in to offices and some recreational space. Bluebridge needs to move too. I’d tell the railway people to shunt their trains somewhere else, cut-and-cover a couple of tunnels for the passenger trains to access the station, and then open up the rail yard for redevelopment. Maybe do it like a southern hemisphere version of Canary Wharf with a special purpose redevelopment authority. There must be several billion dollars of real estate potential in the rail yard.

Maximus
10 - 04 - 14

davidp – i understand what you’re saying, but i think that for the people of Wellington to be really happy with a building on that site, it does need to be truly great. It’s got to give something back to Wellingtonians, apart from just $180k a year in rent. That’s why the ground floor and the roof are being talked about, as public spaces.

Re rental rates? Waterfront views push up rentals. Quality buildings push up rentals. Great locations push up rentals. That’s why great buildings on the waterfront will always be full of tenants, and also why anything slightly substandard nearby (ie a building in the railway yard) will never pull in the big bucks in terms of rentals.

Pauline Swann
10 - 04 - 14

Maximus, Currently Foxglove is on the market again and Unit 5 $180,00 and Unit 6 $290,000 in Herd Street on the market (All offers considered) They all have good views but obviously not enough to bring in the bucks! So where are your tenants to push up the rentals. It is also very obvious in our lovely late summer the takeway carts and vans on Post Office Square have been doing good business from the number of lunch time workers walking across to Queens Wharf with their lunch. The Meridian has 3 eating places but only Mojo is constantly busy….so how more on Kumutoto fare….

Harry T Fontaine
10 - 04 - 14

Ms Swann, may I make the observation that Herd St redevelopment has been a disaster for nearly every business that has ventured into there? But also that businesses tend to do better when there are other businesses nearby, rather than when alone. Herd St, all alone, will always struggle. But Kumutoto is part of the lunchtime circuit, and while occasionally units will sell, overall the market down there is very happy. They will keep their rents up if they keep their reputations up. Simple as that.
Foxglove is a superb establishment, just like Matterhorn. Both are for sale – both are worth buying. Only one is on the waterfront.

Peter
11 - 04 - 14

Maximus – Among those who opposed the Site 10 building were submitters for whom the harbour views don’t loom as large as the issue of the privatisation of public space. Fundamentally, the proposed building is a commercial proposition to provide returns for the developer and his investors which include ACC and the Government Superannuation Fund. The WCC power-brokers,whoever they are, consider that the financial implications for the owners (the people of Wellington) are so sensitive that even Councillors seem to be receiving the ‘mushroom’ treatment.
Research and a few assumptions based on past developments suggest the returns to the Council are likely to be $1 a year lease (as for other Willis Bond ‘partnerships’ with WCC) and the income from rates. The rates returns are at the same level as for commercial properties elsewhere in the CBD – no premium for location. That means the income for the city as a result of a building on site 10 is way less than from the dratted motorhome and car parking – unless the building ends up with a massively over-inflated rateable value, but that prospect would have killed the deal long ago.
This leads to two questions:
Why have the Council been prepared to spent so much on hearings and Court cases to privatise Site 10?
Is a privately owned building with a 60% ground floor public access (forget the garden – it won’t happen)good value for the ratepayers?

JC
11 - 04 - 14

Peter – the $1 per annum lease which Willis Bond have for the OPT site is a red herring. I understand that the real value to the Council is the money which Willis Bond agreed to pay to upgrade the wharf structure, which was in desparate need of repair.

WWL could have paid for the wharf repairs themselves and then sought to recover their costs over a period of time in the annual lease payments or, more sensibly, require Willis Bond to pay it direct up front.

Trying to reduce the arrangement to its rental figure only (as has been done repeatedly in the media) doesn’t take into account the full commercial transaction and reality.

Peter
11 - 04 - 14

JC – you may have been caught in a web of dubious implications that seems to have been spun by either WB, WWL, WCC or some combination of players from that line-up. The reason that Clyde Quay Wharf needed some piles replaced was primarily to support a significantly larger and heavier structure while also supporting a large parking structure beneath it.

If what you say had substance, it suggests Willis Bond have a much better deal with Site 10. Wharf repiling is not required and the expense of providing car parking beneath the building, as was originally proposed, seems to have quietly disappeared in the same way as with the Meridian Building.

m-d
11 - 04 - 14

On the topic of views, I agree with the post, except for one point: the ‘views’ shouldn’t just about the harbour – but also the ‘natural’ topography of this city. For example, the sprouting of tall apartment buildings around Te Aro is contributing to a loss of the ‘sense of place’, insofar as that might be grounded in the natural basin of land surrounded by hills. Views of those hills are becoming increasingly hard to get at ground level. We talk about Wellington as a jewel in its natural setting of harbour and hills, but vantage points for appreciating that are getting higher and higher – and out of reach of the ordinary pedestrian. Your last shots clearly indicate a further erosion of this.

Now, I’m not really bemoaning that fact, and wouldn’t object to the proposal on that basis alone, but I think it worthwhile and interesting to think about nonetheless…

Maximus
11 - 04 - 14

JC (Jesus Christ ? ). And Peter – I gotta confess I know nothing about what the actual rental / purchase price to be paid for Site 10, but I’m almost 99.99% sure that it would not be a peppercorn of $1 per annum. Pretttttty sure that is complete bullshit. More than happy to print a retraction if I’m wrong.

Peter
11 - 04 - 14

Maximus – pretty sure you will find that Chews Lane and OTP are both on $1 per year leases and that the line was that it isn’t going to be worth the effort of collecting it. If that is the case, why would Site 10 be any different. There are plenty of ratepayers waiting for the WCC to refute the peppercorn rental contention but to date that has been floated a number of times but to date – nope!!! Not even a response from Cr. Foster or the veritable WCC media fix-it man who usually aggressively jumps on the slightest sniff of negativity. Perhaps the veritable fish can hook some proof to seal its 99.9% surety, then print a retraction or an “I told you it was bullshit!” Don’t like your chances but happy either way as an informed Council and public is – well – an informed Council and public.

davidp
12 - 04 - 14

OTP couldn’t have been worth much. On one hand you have land value. On the other, you have the liability of dodgy piling and a rusty old building that needed removal. The alternatives to selling it for nothing were to either leave it to deteriorate further. Or the Council spending a small fortune redeveloping the site, and taking a punt on profitability. Property development can lose a lot of money, even without the need to renovate aging piles. Terry Serepisos is evidence of that. I’m really pleased the Council aren’t gambling my rates on property development. And now they’re going to end up with a large rates income, there will be some public amenity from the site, and it isn’t going to be a rusty eyesore for at least a while.

Is there a link for the Chews Lane $1 lease? The development covers several building plots, and I’m sceptical that all of them (or any of them?) were owned by the Council.

Ellie
12 - 04 - 14

Peter – An informed Council, you are …………..me
The point is this is public land, the camper-vans are profitable, the architecture is abysmal and not profitable, so why the hype ?
Maximus I gather you are an architect but even so here we have another dull building like most everything else built here that is ‘economical’. Now, truly, why are you all willing to sacrifice public waterfront for it. Why can’t you climb down of the high horse of ‘Wow’ a new building to look at the other factors before you comment I would have thought the rental lease arrangements would be pivotal. Can you not take an insult any more – a pepper corn rent at a lower income. No business sense or civic duty here.

Peter
12 - 04 - 14

davidp and Maximus-
Chews Lane: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/5004394/Sought-after-building-on-the-market (paragraph 8).
OPT: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/business/commercial-property/6884082/Rental-of-prime-wharf-site-1-a-year.
As for rates income – try Telecom Building: $1,715,243.40 v Meridian Building(probably equivalent to Site 10) $454,466.20. Seems private developers without Council largess do pretty well by the ratepayers when using their own land.
Now a question – if the waterfront developments are providing important financial benefits to the ratepayers, why have loans totaling $15m to keep WWL afloat been financed by WCC?

Pauline
12 - 04 - 14

Harry T, the sad fate of the ground floor of Herd Street is that a number of years ago Doreen Blumhardt, renowned Potter, offered her collection to the City Council, ditto the Printing Press Museum group and a well known architect all his drawings etc. However a number of councillors said we could not afford another trust but needless to say the Dowse happily took the Blumhardt collection. For visitors to Te Papa this would have been a further attraction and have no doubt a coffee/tea/ice cream stall would have been well patronised.

Maximus
13 - 04 - 14

Ellie, if your comments were addressed to me “Can you not take an insult any more – a peppercorn rent…” then yes, I’m as insulted by this as you. If it is indeed true that the land is being leased at a peppercorn rent of a $1 per year, then indeed heads should roll, starting with the people in Wellington Waterfront, and then swiftly followed by people at WCC. Reason I say this is that for years now, WWL has been saying publicly that the very reason they want to develop the sites, is that they will receive money from the developer with which they will upgrade the surrounding public space. So, if they only get $1, then they have failed. Miserably.

Peter
13 - 04 - 14

The following comment (with slight modification) was sent 24 hours ago but according to the stone-aged laptop it was sent from, it has been lying about awaiting moderation. As a very moderate commenter, it has been concluded that one should try again in case of a technical glitch – especially since davidp quite reasonably wants some evidence of the $1 a year lease.

Chews Lane: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/5004394/Sought-after-building-on-the-market (paragraph 8).
OPT: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/business/commercial-property/6884082/Rental-of-prime-wharf-site-1-a-year.
As for rates income – try Telecom Building: $1,715,243.40 v Meridian Building (probably equivalent to Site 10) $454,466.20. Seems private developers without Council largess do pretty well by the ratepayers when using their own land.
Now a question – if the waterfront developments are providing important financial benefits to the ratepayers, why have loans totalling something in the region of $15m to keep WWL afloat been financed by WCC?

Maximus
13 - 04 - 14

Peter – thanks for your comments – I have now fished them out of the Spamfilter and approved them – they get sidelined if they have more than one link at a time. Nothing wrong with your stone-aged laptop, it’s the stone-aged me at the other end.
Excellent info re Telecom and Meridian buildings – the Willis St Telecom building is a lot larger than the Meridian site, and on an area with very high rentals, so those figures make sense, and also why a purported figure of $1 a year would make no sense. Ian Pike, head of WWL or Richard Maclean, WCC PR person, may be able to clarify this issue.

Maximus
13 - 04 - 14

Actually, Peter, I’m reasonably certain that the site 10 site is much larger than the Meridian site – maybe even twice the size – so there is no reason why the site should not pull in about a million a year on the basis of the amount Meridian pays. Which is not worth sneezing at…

And Pauline, I know you think the Doreen Blumhardt ceramics would be a good draw card for a waterfront museum, but I totally disagree with you. Sorry, but: worst. idea. ever.

stuart gardyne
13 - 04 - 14

davidp asked…Is there a link for the Chews Lane $1 lease? The development covers several building plots, and I’m sceptical that all of them (or any of them?) were owned by the Council.

I understand that the entire Chews lane development site was owned by WCC. They had acquired all the sites over a number of years.

Maximus
13 - 04 - 14

Thanks Stuart – nice to see you here. You’re one of the few architects who is open about their use of this site.
Given that the WCC own the area covered by the Chews Lane developments, I’d be incredibly surprised if the WCC wasn’t asking – and getting – decent rentals for their land. There are high rentals in that part of town, and even NZTA have their HQ there, and I’m sure the government would be paying rentals on all their property leases. Perhaps there is some confusion over the area of the building that actually physically over sails the piece of former “road” called Chews Lane. Now, that I can believe is rented for only a $1 per year, although its more likely that WCC is charging the Body Corporate of the apartments above, an annual encroachment license fee.

Pauline
13 - 04 - 14

Sorry Maximus, Doreen was a Wellington “treasure” but what about the Printing Press collection now I understand very happily accepted by Kapiti and surely one of Wellington’s well known Architects drawings, plans etc would have drawn you to the venue.

Re Chews Lane, somewhere in my pile of paper cutting files I have the article in the Dompost of the $1 a year which was raised by ex Cr Cooke so it must be on record somewhere….

davidp
13 - 04 - 14

The reference to $1 for Chews Lane seems to refer only to the Lane itself. In which case it would be leasing the air rights. Which may be what Max just said.

If so, then we have a developer wanting air rights above the Lane for nothing. And in return, we get a new development that employs hundreds of construction workers, provides high quality office space for someone who employs other Wellingtonians on a long term basis, provides substantial rates income, turns the Lane itself in to a pleasant space for eating, and tidies up a neglected block that had a prefabricated metal shed on it for a long time. That sounds like a great deal.

I really can’t understand the people who would prefer to have a prime site occupied by a caravan park, rather than a pleasant building that will provide jobs for locals, rates, and some public amenity. As far as I can tell, this is a public vs private thing… some people don’t mind low-value ugly land use, provided it is owned by government, and they’d prefer that rather than allowing someone to take a risk and maybe earn some money. I wonder if the German government had similar issues privatising the assets of East Germany? Did people want to hang on to derelict rusting tractor factories, rather than have Volkswagen redevelop them in to modern car factories or offices?

Oh, and pottery museum? NZ already has a plethora of tiny “museums” that store uninteresting stuff that someone has collected and donated to their local council. Usually it is old ploughs, or horseshoes, or tatty looking old furniture. I was in Coromandel at Christmas and even they had a town museum. I didn’t go in, because I’m not even slightly interested in bits of old furniture and metal. It is tacky and embarrassing and it really needs to stop. We don’t need a museum of pottery and printing presses. And Lower Hutt doesn’t need a museum or art gallery at all, full stop. They’re a suburb of Wellington, for goodness sake. It is like having a local art gallery for Miramar.

Pauline
13 - 04 - 14

Have found the article in the Dompost 14th May 2011 under the heading AMP SELLING CHEWS LANE HOLDINGS…..

Too much to quote here but of interest the following paragraph…”Although the building was on leasehold land, there was a 250-year ground lease in place for Chews Lane from Wellington City Council at a peppercorn rental of a $1 a year with no reviews”.

Maximus
14 - 04 - 14

Thanks for that Pauline – I just did a search for the same phrase, and although I didn’t find the Stuff article, I did find one from the NBR in 2011 that said: “The major tenant in the Chews Lane six-level building is the New Zealand Transport Agency, which has a 15-year tenancy. The 7286sq m landmark property at 50 Victoria St, Wellington is a seismically strengthened A-grade building in the capital. The building is on a 250 year ground lease from Wellington City Council at a rental of $1 a year with no reviews. The marketing agents claim this is “effectively” freehold”.
Which explains it, sort of. Truth be told, I’ve never really understood why anyone would own a piece of land, lease it to someone else, and only collect a peppercorn rent for it. The other party then builds a building on the land they have leased, and they rent it out, thereby getting their cost of the building back over many years. But I’ve never understood – what, exactly, does the altruistic owner get by leasing the land for next to nothing, in almost perpetuity? Yet this is quite a common thing in some countries – I know my friends back in the UK all have houses on leasehold land. Some of the leaseholds are 99 years, some are even 999 years.

Anyway, so I am wrong about Chews Lane, but I’m still going to stick my head out and say that is not going to happen at Site 10.

Peter
14 - 04 - 14

Come on guys – resorting to trying to find wriggle room, expounding on assumptions instead of facts and spouting theories based on dogma doesn’t lead to useful debate. For example, Stuart Gardyne provided some perspective on the Chews Lane ownership but this has been twisted into an air space argument. That falls flat in the overall debate unless the Council is also charging $1 per year for air space over water at the OPT and if there is a proposal to have a structure hanging in the air above site 10?

Research on rates information on waterfront sites which are under different ownership models raises interesting questions. In fact, it appears some of the expressed assumptions on the revenue the Council receives on $1 leases on waterfront properties seem to fall apart.

The implied belief that the Council has the interests of the wider public as a primary concern is questionable, especially when the mantra of ‘Wellington is open for business’ is thrown into the mix. No – in fact very doubtful as has been proved with other cases that Eye of the Fish has challenged. Most notable was the Maranui Surf Club building, the tilting at the PT light rail windmill and it now seems the Petone – Grenada Road is shaping up as another.

Undoubtedly, few would want to see Kumutoto remain a parking area indefinitely but in the meantime, it seems it is a fiscally sound holding position until a more creative use is found. For the lack of sound evidence to the contrary, it may well be contributing a better return than the northern privatised bookend of the waterfront might.

If this summation is wrong, then the Council, developer or WWL can respond to refute it. In doing so, Councillors who at this point don’t appear to be any better informed than the contributors to this post or the general public may also be more reliably informed before voting on an initiative that will turn Site 10 into another part of the CBD which has a great view of a turquoise shed as a selling point.

greenwelly
14 - 04 - 14

Just to add some even more murk to your thread,

While there appears to be an ongoing $1/ year “peppercorn” ground lease for chews lane,

There does appear to have also to have been an upfront one off payment of $12.5 million when the lease was struck in 2004.

see
http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=460419&page=2

“From the DomPost
Chews Lane project on track

Edition: 2, Section: BUSINESS, pg. C3
COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

A PROPERTY development that is set to change the face of a large chunk of downtown Wellington is going full steam ahead, according to the company co-ordinating the project.

In 2004, Wellington City Council chose Willis Bond Ltd to redevelop the Chews Lane precinct between Willis and Victoria streets. The council sold a 250-year lease of the site to Willis Bond for $12.5 million .

Willis Bond plans new retail outlets on Willis St, refurbishment of four heritage buildings, a new Willis St office building, a cafe and gallery area in the old Chews Lane and a 19-storey apartment building and parking building with space for 202 cars.”

davidp
14 - 04 - 14

Greenwelly… So the $1 thing looks increasingly like buying air rights for the Lane itself. And that WCC sold the actual site for $12.5million. In which case, I have no idea why anyone is getting upset about a perfectly good commercial deal that has provided a lot of benefit to Wellington, and especially that end of Willis St. Well done WCC, now lets get on with turning the caravan park in to an asset for the city.

Pauline
14 - 04 - 14

My last comment! refer you to http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=44816

Maximus
15 - 04 - 14

OK, so let’s see if I have got this right. OPT was sold / leased for a dollar, but then in return (for losing it forever, effectively) the City got the rotting/rusting old wharf rebuilt, repiled, and refurbished, at no cost to the city. So what could have cost the city tens of millions of dollars, became a cost of zero. Not a bad option really.

Chews Lane site was sold for $12.5million, but as leasehold, so the actual lease is only for a $1 a year. Not 100% sure that I really understand what went on there, but AMP, the developers, lost millions on the development so perhaps the city didn’t do too bad over that.

Generally, waterfront sites appear to have been sold, or leased, or something, so that money from that project can be spent on the surrounding development of the public spaces. Seems to have happened to Union Steamship building, Meridian, Herd St etc, and so we have one of the worlds better waterfronts without having had to pay megabucks. Auckland is pouring millions into their waterfront, to try and catch up to us. It’s costing them plenty.

We have two areas still waiting for redevelopment, namely Frank Kitts Park and north Kumutoto. Both are open spaces at present – FKP is on hold and nothing will happen until some money comes into the WWL coffers to do the redevelopment plan. Chinese interest have pledged money to create a Chinese garden there as part of that, but it all needs to happen as one, rather than piecemeal. No doubt Pauline Swann would say that it is fine as is, as would many, but truth is it is badly designed at present, and getting tired – one area is already permanently cordoned off due to spalling, falling concrete. The redesigned, refurbishment will cost several million, and money needs to come from somewhere.

North Kumutoto – there are three sites left that are earmarked for redevelopment under the Waterfront Framework from 2000ish. That is sites 8, 9, and 10. The Environment Court nixed one of those in their ruling last year, and so there are now just two, and one of those has a developer interested, with a proposal. If the proposal goes ahead, Wellington loses a waterfront carpark for foreign tourists to park ugly vans, loses the potential for a large outdoor area that we can’t afford to make nice, but gains an “indoor outdoor public space” thing, which could be great, and has the rest of the land nearby landscaped to be nice as well. Still leaves just one site to go, and no answer for Frank Kitts, but the North Kumutoto works will be paid for either by Council getting cash in return for the land, and then spending the cash on the waterfront refurbishment works, or possibly by giving the land away for a $1 a year, in return for the developer taking on the responsibility and cost of the refurbishment themselves.

Have I got that all right? Doesn’t sound too bad to me.

davidp
15 - 04 - 14

A good summary that sounds accurate to me. The City has done some pretty canny deals and in return has ended up with some quality improvements to the waterfront. There is a lot of misinformation around, but once you sort out the details of what was agreed it is obvious that the investment processes were robust.

FKP? It always strikes me as being a castle with a carpark underneath. It even has battlements. I’m inclined towards an at-grade redevelopment here, although the amphitheatre has its uses for things like the Chinese festival and the chant-off that the schools do at the dragon boating.

Peter
15 - 04 - 14

A well expounded analysis Maximus but first, where is davidp at? First he was opposed to the caravan park and then he wants to enhance it – ‘now lets get on with turning the caravan park in to an asset for the city.’

More seriously, the $1 leases appear to be a legal nicety so the Council cannot be accused of selling public assets while doing just that. One would assume therefore that the ‘considerations’ would reflect market values. Don’t know but suspect not, otherwise, with the waterfront deals, why are the ratepayers stumping up with a loan of some $15 (understood to be the latest figure) for WWL, the arms length structure for Council to hide behind.

Regarding the OPT, some background reading suggests that without the Willis Bond deal, the pile repairs for the Clyde Quay wharf would not have been very costly. This is not unlike the noise that the CCO of WWL kicked up over the state of the Queens Wharf piles with the then Mayor. Seems the rotted piles that were highlighted as an expensive liability had already been replaced and decommissioned. So, the OPT piles had to be replaced, not for the city but to support a vastly heavier structure that seems to be a goldmine for the developer and investors. What does the city get? A larger visual obstruction which many think has little architectural merit, a walkway which will probably end up closed because riff raff will be disturbing the residents at night and, from memory, a fishing deck for kids over water that could be of very dubious quality. The most instructive part of the Clyde Quay Wharf story was the short-sightedness of building something that was obsolete, almost before it was built.

Chews Lane was a bit of a red herring in the context of the original piece on Kumutoto but searches show that Willis Bond were the developers and the family firm built it. Did AMP hope to capitalise buy purchasing off the plan then came unstuck? Willis Bond and LT McGuiness don’t seem to have lost money on the project. Also, was $12.5m a fair market price? Not up with the play on telephone number property games in the CBD. Pretty smart address for a P-lab though.

When one looks at the extent of the two decades of privatisation around the waterfront and the WWL debt, has the city got good open space assets from the once in a umpteen lifetimes windfall of free and unencumbered assets it received from the old Harbour Board? (Presumably, the returns also include those from other development elsewhere form the original ‘Harbour Board estate’ which must be pretty significant given the density and extent of developments around Cog Park way.) Following on, ‘one of the worlds better waterfronts’? ‘without having to pay megabucks’? Big calls, but based on what criteria. Without having seen too much of the world, one can think of a number of places that are far more appealing, where cities have maintained or reclaimed and enhanced open space on their waterfronts or navigable rivers. An interesting exercise is to check Google Maps whenever one hears of fabulous waterfront developments. Invariably, satelite views generally show few people there. Is the definition of a great waterfront a place where people don’t go outside?

Now – North Kumutoto. Site 10 development is under way again after a dubious consultation process, a pending Council decision, a prospective Resource Consent, then no doubt, subsequent Court proceedings. The cynical have been given some justification as the original piece suggests, in that there does not appear to have been a great deal of transparency, evidence of a few questionable strategies to subvert the zero height limit rule and of course, the much reduced footprint and height limits have provided endless grounds for discontent on all sides of the argument. Is there a good deal on offer? Well, Willis Bond, ACC, Government Superannuation et. al. will probably make ‘satisfactory’ speculative profits.

Will the city and its inhabitants get much out of yet another privatisation of public open space? It doesn’t sound too promising to some and cant be reversed for over a century (or possibly a millennium with one deal??)

davidp
15 - 04 - 14

>but first, where is davidp at? First he was opposed to the caravan park and then he wants to enhance it – ‘now lets get on with turning the caravan park in to an asset for the city.’

For goodness sake. A caravan park is not a good use for prime waterfront land. We need to remove the caravans and build something worthwhile on the site that reflects the value of the site. That has been my position all along and, as I’ve mentioned previously, I like the building proposed.

>More seriously, the $1 leases appear to be a legal nicety so the Council cannot be accused of selling public assets while doing just that.

Of course not. NZ contract law demands that “consideration” is exchanged for a contract to be valid. The $1 is the consideration.

m-d
15 - 04 - 14

The zero height limit isn’t there to create a zero height limit – it is there so that any development at the site that exceeds that height limit must go through due process – they can’t be automatically approved. It is a tool to force discussion and debate, rather than a physical design guide.

Peter
15 - 04 - 14

m-d – Yes, the zero height limit mechanism is well understood. The reference in the earlier comment was to Variation 11 which was overturned on appeal – assuming that is what your comment was referring to. At the risk of telling informed readers how to suck eggs, that variation was a blatant attempt to bypass public discussion and debate for buildings much larger than what is now proposed.

davidp – Ummmm? Some people have the same comprehension problems after a few wines in the evening. What’s your reason?

Maximus
16 - 04 - 14

Peter – now now, be nice. One of my comments that you picked up on, regarding Wellington having one of the better waterfronts in the world, I feel I should expand on. We are lucky, by virtue of its shape, that it is naturally a high volume pedestrian route. Other cities are not so lucky. If you’re going from the Railway Station to Oriental Bay, and you’re walking, then 9 times out of 10, you’ll be taking the waterfront route. In fact, if you are going almost anywhere in the CBD, because of the shape of our harbour, and its (now) easy accessibility, the waterfront route can provide a quick route. So, in answer to your query about people – we have enormously high numbers of natural users of the waterfront. We are lucky. Other cities would kill for those numbers. That’s why our waterfront eateries can survive. Herd St is different – it is, sadly, off the beaten track, and always doomed to fail. Actually, with the rich buggers moving into OPT soon, that may provide a little more action, and more financial feasibility.

But to take another waterfront, say, Auckland, they don’t have that natural desire line walking along their waterfront. If you’re going from their Railway Station (Britomart) to say, Parnell, it’s an awful route along Quay St, and there is nowhere to walk on the wharf side. If you’re going from Queen St to almost anywhere, it’s a real mission to go via the waterfront. Their waterfront is not situated in the path of a natural desire line for walking. If you’re really determined, you can meander through the Viaduct Basin, and over the Te Wero bridge, and into the new funky waterfront part called Wynyard Quarter, but you have to be determined to get there. For 9 out of 10 Aucklanders, that part of the waterfront is not going to be part of their lives, ever. So, we start with a natural advantage.

Where else? Sydney? Some parts are highly accessible, but they make more use of their harbour as a travel route, rather than walking round the edge. London? The Thames is ugly green and often unpleasant. Paths are constricted. Some parts are great – others less so. New York? Potentially one of the worlds greatest waterfronts, but still so much activity on the wharfs, that I haven’t found many nice walking areas. Battery Park is not my idea of enjoyable. Boston? Baltimore? San Francisco? All widely touted waterfronts, but seem to be catering more for tourists rather than locals. I could go on, but it’s late at night and I need to write the next post, and do some work, so I won’t. But if you can, please believe me when I say: we’ve got a real gem right here.

Peter
16 - 04 - 14

Sorry Maximus, thought your reference was to the built environment since the post was about Site 10.