City Rail Link Bonanza
By now everybody is talking about the City Rail Link and what this means for Auckland but not many have realised that this project has a much broader effect than just an improved rail system. It will change the way Auckland feels and operates. It will turn our “seaside village” into a proper functioning city with a broad appeal – it will be exciting, attract investment and entice younger generations to move and live here.
Jump into my time-machine and join me on a little journey into the future (the numbers on the map correlate with description below):
The former Downtown Shopping Centre and QE2 Square was demolished to make way for the City Rail Loop and is now known as The “QE2 Precinct”. Two new mixed-use towers rise into the sky above a podium full of glamorous stores. The square is enclosed with glass which also functions as a Winter Garden during the Winter months and a tropical paradise during the Summer months. An internal laneway links QE2 Square with the Viaduct and a subterranean entrance point to Britomart Train Station. Apartments here are the most sought after in Auckland and Auckland’s premier address.
The bus interchange in front of Britomart Train Station has been moved to Wellesley Street and is now a gorgeous public square, free of vehicles and arrogant car drivers. A tram (or light rail) arrives from Wynyard Quarter and collects passengers / tourists who have just disembarked from the train as they head out to the waterfront for theatre (by now The Waterfront Theatre has been built) and dinner. (Please note that the render is of Queen Street but we are working on one for QE2 Square, stay tuned).
Albert Street was the scene of immense International interest when it was dug up to lay the tracks for the new City Rail Link (CRL) and is now an example of how a once derelict and run-down street has been transformed into an urban paradise. Tree-lined with quirky “urban lounges” scattered here and there. Magazine and flower kiosks dot the street, pavement cafes offer patrons a chance to eye-out the passing parade and children discover fabulous creations to play on.
Albert Street is now just as busy as Queen Street and provides an alternative route from Aotea Station to the now fabulous Victoria Quarter and Viaduct.
Aotea Station stretch’s from Victoria Street West to Wellesley Street West and it is from here that you connect to Elliott Street (pedestrianised by popular demand, except for delivery vans between 5 – 11am), Aotea Square (via the fabulous cafe lined Bledisloe Laneway), Federal Street, The New Zealand International Convention Centre and Victoria Quarter (City Works Depot is a trendy mixed-use community buzzing 24/7).
Auckland’s tallest building – The Elliott Tower, has just been completed and offers visitors a sky garden, an internal link between Albert Street and Elliott Street, a shopping centre that connects with Atrium on Elliott and an address with views to die for.
Federal Street is still a shared space but only for taxis and other relevant permit holders. The street is abuzz with some of Auckland’s best hospitality establishments. Buildings are adorned with digital displays and lighting effects. This is the centre of Auckland’s entertainment district and nightlife. Don’t be surprised to find stores such as Chanel, Zara and Prada amongst glamorous champagne bars filled with an International contingent of conference delegates.
The designs were changed and we are now proud to host International visitors at our iconic New Zealand International Convention Centre. A roof-top park and bar offers amazing views across the Western and Northern suburbs where you are free to have one too many as you stumble back to the Aotea Station and catch the train home.
A block away from the station is where you can embark on your Laneways Tour of Auckland – a circular trip that encompasses all of Auckland’s laneways (not the dull and boring ones we have now but jazzed up, arty and quirky). Eye on Auckland has plans to introduce a laneway tour map but I think that I have a better chance of falling pregnant than obtain a meeting with the who’s who at Auckland Council.
Karangahape Station is the life and soul of K’Road – Beresford Square is alive with cafes and shops. Close by old and ugly buildings have been torn down and funky new apartments are rising in their place, fit enough for the ultra-trendy and artsy-fartsy types that enjoy being in the thick of things. Double-income-and-no-kids gay couples fight tooth and nail for a spot to live here now that traveling to and from the city is so convenient and the best that nightlife has to offer is only a drunken stupor away.
The once vile and derelict warehouses in the area have been integrated into mixed-use developments with loft-style apartments, galleries, artist studios and artisan workshops. A mix of retail has set up in the area to cater to the needs of a booming population. The streets are vibrant and alive with the sound of people and hardly any cars – people in the area can’t be bothered to own a car when all conveniences are just a short walk away. All they need is the train, the bus or a bicycle.
The Grafton cycleway is complete and Auckland’s version of the High Line (Nelson Street off-ramp) is nearing completion. It is very convenient to take your bike onto the train and cycle between train stations while you remain fit and experience life at street level instead of being trapped in a cage.
Newton Station will be located between Newton Road and Mount Eden Road. The area has always been a very attractive community full of heritage buildings and specialist shops but now it’s a glorious mix of the ultra-modern and old-World architecture. People wanting to be near the city but not in the city flock to Newton now that travel is so easy and convenient.
Industrial buildings have been modernised and offer a range of living / work quarters. Corner cafes are everywhere, an eclectic mix of cultures and tastes. Apartment living is more popular than ever with rooftop communal gardens part of everyday life. Street Markets sell the produce to “visitors” who arrive by train from various parts of Auckland to explore the local street culture.
Not many Auckland suburbs can boast about having so much intact heritage as what Newton has. A heritage precinct has been formed but still allows for a mix of contemporary additions. Tourists flock here to admire old Auckland and our quirky modern additions. The community is a shining example of how the old and the new can live in perfect harmony without the interference of narrow-minded nimbys. Designers and design stores congregate here. The film and advertising Industries boom here. A creative and innovative hub has formed around the Newton Station.
I hope that you enjoyed my vision of Auckland’s future. I don’t think that it is far fetched at all and each area discussed should try and stick to this plan. Place-making is extremely important – we need different nodes with a point of difference. Vibrant communities depend on great public transport options and now we finally have the opportunity to create them but we can’t wait until 2020 … 2015 is the magic number – let’s get it done.
On a side-note, there is already evidence of this happening in Newton – I spotted this conversion in the area and I think it’s great :