While the Wellington apartment scene continues on its merry way, with Casino, Clyde Quay, Elevate, Market Lane and the new Nouvo / Nuovo developments all furiously underway (nearly all catering, need i say, for the well-heeled end of the market), the Orclanders are also having a tilt again at the apartment market.

Sugartree, a new development of nearly 500 apartments (Crikey!) on Nelson St, is aiming not at the low end, cheap and dirty, squalid living conditions that Auckland bargained on for the “Asian student” market (how’s that working out for you, Auckland?), but instead is aiming firmly upmarket, even if the location is not quite as salubrious as the Viaduct harbour. They’re kicking off with a 145 apartment block as phase 1, and to show they’re serious, got the uber-Mayor Len Brown to launch it. I’ve linked to the Stuff website for the article – I find it impossible to locate on the NZHerald website, which I find extraordinary, but I’m sure it has made the papers up there as well. In what I would view as a good thing, the developers say that prices of apartments in stage 1 of Sugartree “ranged from $280,000 to $580,000, with car parks costing an additional $60,000…” and that the “prices worked out at about $7000 per square metre which made them less attractive to investors.” That implies a one-bedroom size of about 40m2, which if true, would be a reasonable proposition for young people currently renting.

I’m really welcoming this move from Auckland – it is a far move from their previous policy of turning the inner city into a mixing pot of highways and noodle-bars, 20m2 flats and giant slabs of faceless glass. It is, and I relish saying this: the first move to a grown up city. Great cities are grown by the sweat and blood of the inhabitants, and treating the inhabitants of any city like a whipped horde in perpetual servitude is never a good look. For the last few years, Auckland’s much-stated aim of becoming one of the “most livable cities in the world” has been just laughable, but this may just change the way forward.

Let’s look at the plan. Here’s the overall development – you can’t tell much:

Nelson St is on the right, and the view from Nelson St will look something like this:

I’m presuming that possibly, this plan here is of the block on the right:

I don’t know about you, but I find that hard to read – so here is one tiny snippet, of unit 3, enlarged as much as I can:

That’s not a whole lot of living space, but it is a helluva lot more than a 20m2 apartment would give you. I’m not entirely sure where Auckland is standing on minimum size of apartments these days – the only rule they are planning in the new Unitary Plan, is a single bare min of 30m2; but in the current in-between state of Auckland politics, I’m really not sure what the status is. Here’s hoping that Auckland is on the right track at last. Question is: are we? (ie here in Wellington). I guess that I should look at a Wellington development closely. Ummm, so how about….. ?