The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
August 18, 2009

Project Rugby

Prodded into action by one of our many readers, who helpfully slipped us a set of the Resource Consent drawings, we’ve had a chance to look at the New World (“Project Rugby”) scheme that is due to clog up the Basin Reserve even more. Far be it for me to question anyone’s sanity, but why would anyone want to build a Supermarket right on the busiest roundabout in the Capital and risk the almost guaranteed wrath of commuters everywhere?

newworldrugby

Perhaps that is a bit too harsh – after all, the current inner-city New World is effectively on the centre of a giant roundabout next to Waitangi Park, and that seems to do alright without clogging the city’s arteries, while the New World in Thorndon is also situated betwixt an onramp and an offramp.
Update: just for comparison, here is a picture from the opposing camp, of the new Countdown supermarket proposed for the corner of John St in Newtown:
countdown-newtown-2
Yes, the bottom of Wakefield / Cable St is a far less busy junction than the Basin Reserve, I know, and we at the Fish haven’t seen the inevitable traffic report for this Rugby St proposal: but I would have thought that Sisyphus would have had an easier job moving a boulder uphill than New World will have in controlling traffic flow here. Almost without a doubt, traffic will be queuing up across the main Basin traffic lanes at peak times, and will be leaking away down (currently) quiet residential streets like Tasman as the traffic drain tries to unclog itself. No wonder that we are going to need a motorway flyover to unjam it all.

mapwell2

You certainly can’t blame Foodstuffs for trying to put yet another behemoth supermarket here, given that it is such a key site with massive traffic flows. As can be seen from my highly skilled and 100% accurate map above, there is a preponderance of Foodstuff outlets existing / planned in the capital, with other retailers also trying to get a leg in. But it is tedious that as always, the developer is trying to get the scheme in through the back door without a Notified Resource Consent. It’s not so much that “we the people” don’t trust the Council officers to do their job, but when it is a stonker like this, I fail to see why it should be hidden away. Foodstuffs want us to buy food there – therefore “we” have a right to have our say our bit on their proposals. And so, in the inevitable, slightly awkward presentation that is this blog format, here it is: some plans and elevations for your delectation.

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The scheme itself is rather bland, although that is almost to be expected in New Zealand supermarket design. We never try to do anything too exciting here: it’s a Big Box with carefully placed frilly bits to take your mind off the behemoth size. The first thing that springs to notice is the grey rectangle of Guardian House, the “existing building” on the plan that really must just totally annoy Foodstuffs: one can only presume that the big food corporation has been trying to buy them out for months, if not years. But, evidently, moving they are not, and so the scheme has an awkward, slightly compromised entry off Rugby St (the little one off the Basin speedway), with people and cars both milling around together, trying hard not to run over each other. In one way it is quite interesting, with little stairs winding up here and there, threading their way through the neighbourhood, and up into the supermarket – I’m sure that architects Hunt Davies Tennent have tried their best, but it must be a pain to have to have everyone climbing up one floor to get in.

The focus has been away from the Tasman St frontage – that gets a just car exit, a service dock entry, and a couple of tiny retail outlets marooned on the backside of the complex like pimples on a hippo’s buttocks: along with a half dozen or so jaunty little apartments.

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The former local pool – the former Boys and Girls Institute – has been kept as use for some New World office space. Personally, I’d rather have our community pool back please! If Foodstuffs really wanted to ingratiate itself with the locals, they’d forgoe their office space and incorporate a pool back into the complex.

New World may be “everybody’s local supermarket” (through carpet bombing blanket saturation of any opposition to their empire), but the design is standard ‘could be anywhere’ boxy panacea, with a series of perky little roofed apartments plonked on top. These apartments, rather too bland at this stage to be interesting, are presumably housing for the shopping obsessed: apartments for those who really fancy that fresh-cooked-bread flavour that New World fill their stores with. Actually, that’s far too cynical even for me – I’m all in favour for inner-city living, and living above the shop and all that – but these apartments look curiously flattened.

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It’s all because of the dreaded height limit. The rolling height plane rules the roost here, and in a desperate attempt to avoid getting pinged for going over-height, the developer / supermarket / architect has kept strenuously below the Residential height limit. Its curious how when a Central area design goes over the height limit, an extra storey or two between friends doesn’t raise the roof (so to speak) – but when such an act is performed between non-consenting adults in the suburbs, all hell breaks loose. I’d be inclined to say what the heck, give them an extra metre or two in the centre of the site: or even another 5 floors of apartments, to really create a local vibe. The houses seem to exist at the edges for the sole purpose of hiding the vast expanse of roof, and so will have a dreary outlook west, although their views east will be very urban grainy, just like a loaf of Molenberg. The scheme should be notified anyway for the masses of vehicle movements in and out of the site, so may as well alter the architecture and produce a decent scheme that isn’t compromised from the outset.

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It is the entry off the Basin that I find the least convincing or satisfying. There’s a wide verandah with seating looking out over the racetrack that is the Basin – unless its going to be leased out to a load of Aussie petrolheads pining for Bathhurst, it seems unlikely to be a place of quiet caffeine retreat. The folk at the nearby Marksman Motel are being driven mad by the incessant racing of souped-up Skylines and Subarus: the only good thing about having the major car entry this close to the Basin exits is that they may clog it up so totally that the infamous boy racers may have to find a new corner to drift through.

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The main issue really is that the cars and the people are all too close together (risking daily amputations), and that the apartments up above that look all so weak and really rather lame. I am Shopping Woman, Hear me Roar! Why not break through that pathetic little height limit and build a decent apartment block there instead?

newworldrugbycloser

Peter
18 - 08 - 09

And at the John Street bottleneck: http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/2009/08/18/what-will-happen-to-the-traffic/

Maximus
18 - 08 - 09

Thanks for the link to Lindsay Shelton’s article. I didn’t post an image of the John St proposal because I hadn’t seen any pictures of it – and now I have.
The isssue is, as you say, exactly the same. Massive over-runs in traffic. What to do?

On the one hand, the planners could constrict traffic to the side streets opnly, so that it doesn’t muck up the traffic flows on the major streets. However, and rightly so, the poor folk who live down those quiet little minor streets will protest loudly. So is the opposite role better? Ban supermarket traffic from side streets and enforce entries and exits only on the main roads? But then traffic over the whole city grinds to a halt.

Or should they do as they have in Petone, where an entire intersection is given over to a supermarket entrance. Council traffic engineers Steve Spence and Soon Tek Kong will have their work cut out to make their way through this tangled mess….

Kaihuia
18 - 08 - 09

Perhaps the only saving grace is that if Adelaide Rd does become a medium-density housing area, as the council envisages, there will be a reasonable catchment of customers who don’t need to drive to the supermarket. However that depends on more people getting the idea that groceries can be purchased in small quantities frequently, rather than in weekly carloads. It would also help if the supermarkets offered a delivery service – maybe starting with this one.

Carl
19 - 08 - 09

You’re being disengenuous when you say “Far be it for me to question anyone’s sanity, but why would anyone want to build a Supermarket right on the busiest roundabout in the Capital and risk the almost guaranteed wrath of commuters everywhere?”

The answer is right there – the reason they want to build there is precisely because there is a huge number of hungry people in cars on their way home, or to / from work. New World want the people – they won’t give a stuff if that causes a traffic jam, that’s just a chance for them to sell more (jam). Their attitude will be – let the Council sort out the traffic – we just want our shoppers to eat cake.

Nice analogy about Bathhurst though! Mount Panorama here i come !

Jason
20 - 08 - 09

Thoughts and questions:

What is the value of such a low height limit along the Rugby Street frontage.

Will there be a bus stop at the entrance?

Those trees on the plan look awfully like small shrubs in the artist’s impression.

I predict a spate of accidents caused by people making last minute lane changes.

This will likely take a lot of traffic away from Chaffer’s. In fact, it could allow for some development on the Chaffer’s New World carpark, or perhaps a continuation of Blair Street. I don’t even have ballpark figures for Chaffer’s patronage, but I have never seen the carpark full, and I have rarely seen more than one row of the underground carpark full. Surely there is more to be made selling off or developing that area, particularly as the customers that Chaffer’s will losing will be the Hataitai and Brooklyn crowds, most of whom would drive.

A commercial swimming pool in this location sounds like it couldn’t lose. You’ve got a catchment of three high schools, two primary/intermediate, and a university.

How can the Wellington market sustain three new supermarkets?

Will the Basin Reserve be changing it’s food and drink policies as a result of this?

The design isn’t hideous, which is probably the best we can expect from a supermarket development.

I don’t quite understand your map – the scale of the thingies, the emphasis on the Courtenay Place FiX, etc.

davidp
20 - 08 - 09

>I don’t quite understand your map – the scale of the thingies, the emphasis on the Courtenay Place FiX, etc.

Max does most of her shopping at FiX, usually at 3am on the way home from a pub or club. Generally her weekly shopping consists of potato chips, coke, and a packet of mints.

I’m all in favour of more CBD supermarkets. This one will allow some people who currently drive to the supermarket to walk, so will result in a net decrease in traffic. It’ll cause some extra traffic around the Basin area, but there will be more than a corresponding decrease somewhere else. If that decrease comes from Chaffers (and there is nothing to say it would, except that is the nearest large supermarket), then moving traffic from the waterfront to the bypass is a good thing in my opinion.

I don’t understand why Woolies wants to locate itself next to Te Papa tho. It isn’t really a residential area, and walking shoppers from Oriental Bay and Mt Vic will be closer to Chaffers New World. I think they’d be better off around, say, Taranaki and Vivian where there are more apartments and less competition. Is this a matter of site availability? Or am I just not understanding consumer behaviour?

Maximus
21 - 08 - 09

“Max does most of her shopping at FiX, usually at 3am on the way home from a pub or club. Generally her weekly shopping consists of potato chips, coke, and a packet of mints.”

You’re quite right, I do. But how did you know?

My map was a superb graphic masterpiece, using some dodgy bit of software, and a completely unscientific size of circle depending on how long i held the button down for, but vaguely reminiscent of a possible sphere of influence. There are obviously more than just those places available for food, but generally, unless I’ve left screeds out, they are the locations of current (and some apparently proposed) super-market / super-ette places to get food. Did I miss anything out?

Maximus
21 - 08 - 09

Jason – good set of questions. Wouldn’t it be good if someone from the architects, or the developer, or the supermarket popped up here and answered some of those? Wayne O’Stykes? You reading this? Do tell….

Peter
21 - 08 - 09

Supermarkets are so late 20th century monuments to excessive consumption. They are the temples of societies that worship obese bums on car seats and, in Wellington, are being sited to reflect this. All seems a bit strange in a city that statistics seem to suggest is reducing its car to population ratio. People found a number of good uses for the old local stores so no doubt, when the supermarket wars are relegated to history, there will be imaginative uses for the monuments that are being created.

Craig
31 - 08 - 09

There was someone a few months ago writing a letter in one of the local Wgtn weekly newspapers putting forward the idea that if they must build a supermarket in this vicinity, why not consider a swap with the current Mt Cook school? Reading the argument behind it I was convinced it was a great and sensible idea. The position of the existing Mt Cook school isn’t particularly central for Mt Cook kids, most would have to cross busy roads to get there (bar a few I suspect from surrounding new apartments?). If the school was relocated to where the supermarket is currently proposed it would get a pool and be better positioned for access to the residential area it is intended to serve. The supermarket going where the school is would be with fellow retail commercial entities on Tory such as Leemings and the Warehouse. There would still be traffic congestion but that’s going to be an issue regardless.

Jessica
10 - 12 - 09

Just an update here – Council has granted resource consent but removed the Adelaide Rd car access point, it will be interesting to see how traffic entering/exiting via Rugby and Tasman Sts will be handled to mitigate the effects on neighbouring residential streets.

Also I note that on their website Foodstuffs mentions a future plan for larger apt blocks:
“Two multi level apartment blocks are envisaged for the future but not likely to be economic in today’s financial climate. In the meantime, these will be developed into ‘pocket parks’ adjacent to Belfast Street and on the corner of Tasman and Rugby Streets.”

Maximus
11 - 12 - 09

Thanks Jessica – yes, Resource Consent has been passed for this – I am amazed. It would seem that the traffic concerns – almost guaranteed cock-ups with traffic snarled at the Basin – are of no concern whatsoever. Astounding.

And just what we don’t need – yet more “pocket parks” surrounding the basin. Who, pray tell, will ever want to sit in a pocket park near the Basin Reserve? When you have the choice of the actual Basin Reserve, or the actual Massey University grounds just nest to you?

Idiocy rules supreme.

Kaihuia
4 - 01 - 10

Perhaps the only saving grace is that if Adelaide Rd does become a medium-density housing area, as the council envisages, there will be a reasonable catchment of customers who don't need to drive to the supermarket. However that depends on more people getting the idea that groceries can be purchased in small quantities frequently, rather than in weekly carloads. It would also help if the supermarkets offered a delivery service – maybe starting with this one.