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Breathing energy into forgotten spaces

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Urban designers from Melbourne have been knocking on Auckland Council’s door to gain insight into the shared spaces and laneways being created within Auckland city.


“Auckland’s laneways and dormant side streets are the sleeping giants of the city,” says former Londoner, Ludo Campbell Reid, Auckland Council’s energetic and visionary design champion.

Campbell Reid’s passion is a transformational masterplan for Auckland that will see a more pedestrianised ‘footprint’ citywide on the back of revitalised streets and lanes.

“Data shows that visitors to Auckland are increasing their average duration of stay thanks to improvements to infrastructure, transport, the inner city framework and the re-energised waterfront,” he says.

Even early detractors are starting to come around to the idea of shared spaces which are now features of Vulcan Lane, Fort Lane, O’Connell Street, Elliott Street and the SKYCITY section of Federal Street.

“When we first broached the ‘shared space’ idea there was resistance from businesses and building owners. Today, those people are converts and commercial property opportunities have increased.”

He says laneways slow people down and, the slower people walk and take in their surroundings, “the more they notice and the more they spend. The city’s beautiful heritage buildings are flung into the spotlight, too”.

In the revamped Fort Street area, a recent survey shows retail hospitality spending is up 429 percent, 91 percent of users endorse the changes and there are 34 per cent fewer cars – now travelling at slower speeds.

Britomart precinct has also leveraged off the small laneways between its heritage buildings and Willis Bond’s Wynyard Central development is similarly embracing the laneway model to add life and character between buildings.

Campbell-Reid says Auckland Council is proactively working towards creating a city centre laneway circuit - a walking route with a sequence of public squares and gathering spaces from Aotea Square to the waterfront.

While Queen Street will remain the city ‘spine’, there are plans to transform Victoria Street into an east-west linear pedestrian green park - connecting Albert Park near the University of Auckland to Victoria Park

Wellington City Council manager urban design and heritage, Trudy Whitlow, says the capital has more than 70 lanes and arcades.

“The council’s vision is to improve the central city for those people walking and spending time there,” she says. “They’re the areas that people like because they have an intimate scale, are often sheltered from the wind, accommodate interesting and innovative businesses like tech’ start-ups and artisan producers, and are usually shortcuts to get from one place to another.

Whitlow says old buildings bring character to the lanes and the aim is to highlight and showcase these to add colour to the projects. “There are stories to be told about these places,” she says “We use murals and street artists and recently installed the first ever public digital screen in Masons Lane to give artists some exposure outside of a gallery setting. We are also looking to use sculpture in some of our upcoming projects.”

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