Tory Street has been closed off since the big Kaikoura quake sequence last year, and has only just reopened to traffic and to the public. The old 9-storey car parking building, built in the era of Chase Corp, and destined to be the car parking answer to a 30 storey office and hotel tower (on the Reading site) that thankfully never happened, has been shovelled up and removed. Interesting to observe that a building allegedly so badly damaged that not a single human being was allowed back in, in case of collapse, nevertheless took 2-3 months of dedicated chewing up under the mighty jaws of Big Bertha, the warm, buxomly, motherly name of the big yellow digger that was anything but user-friendly, and even down to the last scrap, the carpark never looked anything other than massively resilient.
Methinks The Engineer doth protest too much!
Never mind – its gone now, and no one misses it. The owners are now painting a few white lines on the empty concrete floor that remains, to accommodate the few people that drive to the movies, but the empty site does now present a huge chance for a new vibrant quarter of Wellington. Look here at the hole it leaves:
Now look here at the vibrant architecture of the opposing side of the street. It’s small scale, it’s quirky, it is inventive, interesting, full of small businesses, and the ground floors of much of Tory St are filled with delicious food outlets. Right now they will be hurting – right now they will need your support. So, go there, eat there, buy there, support them and help them prosper again.
But the real opportunity lies across the road. What should we do, in Wellington, with such a bargain spot? It is certainly not going to be a carpark for long, with any luck. It needs and deserves a whole new way of thinking about the city – starting even with the street itself. The actual asphalt, the road itself, has been out of action for the last 5 months – and really, who has missed it? Are we any better off having cars once more growling through there? We haven’t needed them for the last 5 – why do we need cars there for the next 7 months?
Tory St is actually one of my favourite streets in Wellington – and not because it is drivable, but in spite of it. Why not close off Tory permanently to traffic, starting with the bottom section and then progressively enlarge the pedestrian zone further up, across Courtenay and eventually up to Pukeahu Park? It is the perfect size and width for a cycle-friendly route, a pedestrian route, and it works out brilliantly, connecting up to Tasman St. But it really doesn’t need cars. It needs space for delivery vans, sure, and for local residents, but for the most part, this street just needs space for the people of Wellington. How about it? Let’s trial it!