The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
March 13, 2008

Barrio and Bellagio

Just as the press is all about the coming end of the property market, and the apartment market crash in Auckland, another development appears on the horizon.

Barrio is the latest high rise apartment building designed by architect Campbell Pope, interestingly just next to his previous work: the Bellagio. While Bellagio seemed a random choice for a name, implying an Italian background, Barrio seems outright wrong – normally meaning a poor neighbourhood in a Spanish speaking country. Not quite a favela, or a slum; but not far from it. Perhaps not what you want rich property investors to be thinking – presumably the developers are assuming that kiwi investors won’t be fluent in Spanish. One word to you then: Pajero.


barrio.jpg

Barrio is designed on the same rationale as many of the Archaus projects, whereby you buy two small apartments linked together as one package, and can then rent out one and live in the other. Inevitably, one is a dubiously small studio apartment, while the other is a ‘one bedroom’ flat, often little larger. Its depressing, to me at least, because while it caters well for the ‘get rich quick’ mentality of the rabid property investors, it adds little back to the city in terms of quality living choices. A mix of one, two, and three bedroom apartments would be so much more sustainable for the city – but lets face it, the site is not a premium quality space, and so: cheap and cheerful investor apartments it is. Actually, not cheap, nor possibly that cheerful.

The website shows a fantastic view out towards the harbour, conveniently not showing the other planned developments that may soon be built, such as the longer overdue Watermark. There’s also a low rise Tse building in front too that must surely be crying out for redevelopment. On the other side of the view is of course Pope’s former building, the 12 storey Bellagio (although Bellagio appears to have been first designed by Architecture Plus). How come then that Bellagio is 12 storeys, and Barrio is only 9 storeys, seeing as they are covered by the same height limit? Is that just a gesture of being nice from one development to another, with Barrio promising to stay smaller than Bellagio? They have the same architect and construction company – and probably the same developer (the Barrio website is not saying).

bellagio.jpg

The story behind the extra storeys is of course that the developers uncovered some remains of maori whare, ponga logs imbedded in the mud of the former Te Aro pa. There seems to be reasonable evidence that the Te Aro pa should still be in the hands of the local iwi, although a long time ago it was decided that it was far too untidy to have maori living in the middle of the main street in Wellington, and so their land was taken away. Compensation, of course, was promised but not given. The developer knew that his project was to be built smack in the middle of a former pa, and that the likelihood of finding maori artifacts was high. That whare were found should not therefore have come as much of a surprise to developer or council, and while it is great that they have been found, and kept, I still have a major issue over the council granting the developer the right to extend the Bellagio by two extra floors.

The lower level apartments, fronting onto a narrow lane, are virtually worthless, usable only as car parks or basic student digs; while the prospect of two more levels of penthouse apartments, guaranteed not to be built out, must be near priceless. Until, that is, the Barrio builds in front of them, presumably also on the edge of the pa. Lets hope that if the Barrio also hits archaeological treasure, the council does not grant extra height. Developers should be bound to preserve historic remains without being paid (read: amply compensated) for their heroic efforts.

All that aside however, Bellagio has turned out better than was originally hoped for. Perhaps it is petty to pick out the faults with the building (overly fussy small square windows, tiny shaded decks down a narrow lane, etc), but while the window and balconies on the west facade combine to give a heightened vertical feel and keeps the building looking slim and almost elegant, the length of the building back into the block presents a massive wall to the south.

However, this south facade (overlooking Molly Malone’s – great paint job, by the way: makes me thirsty) has opened up what could have been a dull blank wall, utilising (overly repetitive) window and balcony manifestation that makes the awful eclectic mass (or mess) of the pink and green Courtenay Apartments look somehow not quite so out of place.The rooftop penthouse Dalek eyepods give the building some character and once they are occupied, hopefully some soul. Although Bellagio the building is not as elegant as the city of Bellagio, it bodes reasonably well for the Barrio.

artandmylife
13 - 03 - 08

They obviously have no idea what Barrio means or its connitations- or maybe they do with the size of the apartments!

mobsta
14 - 03 - 08

I wonder what the story is with Architecture+?
They were shown on the original sign board and the original plans and interior finishes boards.
Then I heard that Campbell Pope had taken it over.

Is it to do with the opinion that Architecture+ value good design and generally produce work of quality and Campbell Pope is known as a cheap Architect who has produced some of Wellington’s nastiest roof top additions?

Just wondering…..

We definitely don’t want to become a southern Auckland.
That truly is an awful urban area with it’s shoebox apartments and general slum-like feel in certain places of the city.
(The editor of Architectural Review UK came to a conference a couple of years ago and said “when I came to Auckland 15 years ago it was a land of milk and honey and sun and I thought it was paradise on earth – now it is a slum like any other major city on earth – no care has been taken with the urban here….”)
It is disturbing to note a couple of Auckland developers eyeing Wellington….

Maximus
14 - 03 - 08

Mobsta – there are developers still left in Auckland? I thought they had all gone bust and been run out of town….

DeepRed
14 - 03 - 08

At least one AKL developer (Conrad Properties) has shifted its attention to WLG after the AKL City Council imposed a minimum floor area for apartments, following concerns over the emergence of cheap & nasty shoeboxes in the AKL CBD. The WCC is taking a more flexible case-by-case approach. WellUrban had a nuanced take on the issue.

Soho Apartments, on the former car showroom on 72 Taranaki St, is Conrad’s first Welly development. From the initial info, the Soho appears to have a mixture of bedroom sizes.

Deepred
14 - 03 - 08

Mobsta wrote: It is disturbing to note a couple of Auckland developers eyeing Wellington…

The said developers have turned their attention to Welly after the AKL City Council mandated a minimum size for apartments, following concerns over the emergence of cheap & nasty shoebox apartments. Welly City Council is not imposing a minimum size requirement, instead taking a case-by-case approach to developments.

Conrad Properties – the Soho Apartment development, on the surface of it, appears to have a mixed range of bedroom sizes. And the design renders, although nothing special, don’t look terribly cheap and nasty to me.

Columbard Wellington – WellUrban has some interesting commentary on the issue.

Barrio boy
16 - 03 - 08

Well, literally speaking “barrio” just means “neighbourhood”, but of course the more specific popular use is for a Hispanic slum, so I had the same “OMG WTF were they thinking?” reaction.

In the “flesh”, the Bellagio doesn’t look as awful as I had feared, but the weird grid windows and the heavy grey colour scheme drag it down.

Iconoclast
16 - 03 - 08

Barry – oh boy ! Yeah, at least they didn’t call it Favela Towers…

Arthur
16 - 03 - 08

Maximus, you may be interested to know that the latest issue of ‘Heritage’ (the Historic Places Trust magazine) has an extensive article on the project and the ‘sites of immense importance’ they uncovered.

While I agree with you that there doesn’t seem to be much worth in some ‘degraded ponga logs’ only held together by the surrounding gravel (some choice carvings or a pit full of priceless relics would have been more of a reward), the article also has a section on the History of Te Aro Pa, implying that a tax on raupo dwellings and the 1855 earthquake had more to do with the Pa’s decline, rather than just the pakeha greed.

mobsta
21 - 05 - 08

Uncertain future for $20m Barrio block
By NICK CHURCHOUSE – The Dominion Post | Wednesday, 21 May 2008

More than $20 million worth of apartments in Wellington’s Taranaki St are in limbo with a mortgagee sale hanging over them.
The Barrio Apartment development, to be built behind the former Taranaki St police station, was advertised as a mortgagee sale in The Dominion Post last weekend.
Since then the sale has been put on hold, and Stephen Sutorius from CB Richard Ellis said he was awaiting instructions from the mortgagee.
Apartments in the block, comprising 58 dwellings which cost up to $735,000 for a 101-square-metre unit, are still being sold.
Construction is due to start in the next few months, but Stephen Crerar, in Auckland, and Dunedin’s Tony Offen, both directors of property owner TSP Holdings, refused to comment.
A spokesman for contractors Wellington Construction said he could not speak on behalf of the developers but the schedule was still on track.
The apartments are pitched to prospective buyers with a special financing package, allowing people to use a bank deposit bond option to buy the properties with no money required till settlement. Completion was due by mid-2010.
Advertised as a key downtown location, the development features dual-key two-bedroom configuration for apartments on eight of the nine floors, allowing owners to split the apartment into two separate one-bedroom studios for rental purposes.
Remax Leaders real estate agent Andrew Brodie said he could not comment on the situation but confirmed the apartments were still for sale and there was good demand for them.

Maximus
23 - 05 - 08

Mobsta – yes, but then today:

Developers avert mortgagee sale
By NICK CHURCHOUSE – The Dominion Post | Friday, 23 May 2008

Developers of Wellington’s $20 million Barrio Apartments have confirmed they have fended off a mortgagee sale with new funding secured.
TSP Holdings director Stephen Crerar has confirmed new funding for the Taranaki St development from ANZ after its initial mortgage lender, Capital + Merchant Finance, went into receivership.
There had been considerable confusion since an advertisement was placed in The Dominion Post and the National Business Review advertising a mortgagee sale last weekend.
Mr Crerar and fellow TSP director Tony Offen of Dunedin refused to clarify the situation when approached by The Dominion Post earlier in the week.
Mr Crerar has now said a mortgagee sale is not being considered.
“There has been strong interest in the apartments and construction of the development is expected to begin later this year,” he said.
The apartments, priced from $320,000 to $735,000, are due to be completed by 2010.

DeepRed
4 - 01 - 10

At least one AKL developer (Conrad Properties) has shifted its attention to WLG after the AKL City Council imposed a minimum floor area for apartments, following concerns over the emergence of cheap & nasty shoeboxes in the AKL CBD. The WCC is taking a more flexible case-by-case approach. WellUrban had a nuanced take on the issue.

Soho Apartments, on the former car showroom on 72 Taranaki St, is Conrad's first Welly development. From the initial info, the Soho appears to have a mixture of bedroom sizes.