If you have read the Dominion Post article on Manners, you will know that the plans to un-mall Manners Mall have just been passed.

If you have read the Dominion Post article, you will also not know the full story. Whether due to the breaking nature of the announcement, or somewhat slanted journalistic intent, the dom doesn’t make mention of the news that the lower end of Cuba St down to Wakefield will be redeveloped as a pedestrian-oriented public space.

If done properly, this seems like it would alleviate any of the harms that adding buses to Manners will create. The streetscape of Manners Mall itself has little distinctive – or valuable – character. Especially after its 2003 makeover. Given its reputation as an emo/goth hangout, it would seem to be defined by the stereotypes that occupy it more than anything else. 

For this reason, I don’t see why the utility that Manners provides cannot simply be transplanted to the newly developed area of Cuba St, as the council has decided. Alarm bells sound when it is mentioned that this new space will be ‘shared’ and not completely pedestrianised, however there are many precedents for such spaces being successful, so I will welcome the experiment.

Moreover, it is entirely possible that Manners Mall can be re-purposed as a similar ‘shared street’. As a bus-only lane, the traffic presence would be relatively low, especially during the off-peak times. Manners’ place in the urban fabric of Wellington means it must be able to cope with large volumes of pedestrian traffic, but the addition of a bus lane is not necessarily a significant impediment to this. As with the lower Cuba development, this task will rest on the capabilities of the selected designers.

Also flying in under the radar are another series of other public space announcements:

New and improved pedestrian areas in Dixon, Wakefield, Mercer and Willis streets have also been approved over the next five years.

“We have a great opportunity here to create some really exciting new public spaces and I hope Wellingtonians will get involved as we look at the design of these areas in greater detail.”

Councillors also agreed today to extend the 30kph speed limit (already in place in Lambton Quay and lower Willis Street) to Courtenay Place and Manners Street; to put traffic lights on the three pedestrian crossings in Courtenay Place; and ban the right turn from Victoria Street into Manners Street. About 40 additional on-street car parks are planned.

In particular, the mention of Dixon St sounds promising. If Prendergast has any intention of inching towards banning cars in the CBD, the possibility of Dixon Mall should be heavily considered. Be sure to read the WCC press release in full: http://www.wellington.govt.nz/news/display-item.php?id=3542

So, my questions to you are these:

Can the function of Manners Mall as a public space be effectively relocated to lower Cuba?

Was Manners Mall a successful space in the first instance?

Should lower Cuba (and perhaps Dixon) be pedestrianised, and how? Should they be Cuba St’s? Courtenay Place Parks? Midland Parks? Lambton Quays? Something completely different?

Updated 11 June: with plans from the Wellingtonian. On the left, as it is, and on the right, as it is proposed.

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