5 Tips On Getting The Most Out Of Auckland’s Laneway Revival
Think of city laneways and you’re likely to picture Melbourne; its CBD richly veined with cobbled alleys, mysterious side streets and established pedestrian zones that crackle with chic bars, hip eateries and boutique retail shops. So defined is Melbourne by its web of dark, sexy side streets that it’s high praise indeed (if a little surprising) when urban designers from that city start looking to our very own Auckland Council for insight into the creation of laneways and shared spaces. Could the World’s Most Liveable City have a bit of backstreet competition on its hands?
Auckland Council’s Design Champion, Ludo Campbell-Reid, thinks so. He’s described Auckland’s laneways and dormant side streets as "the sleeping giants of the city”, and over the past few years has been working to stir them, one by one. The Council’s 10 year Shared Space Plan seeks to create a constellation of pedestrian-friendly spaces where visitors and locals alike can “shop, sit, relax, linger, dine and spend time”. It’s a programme well in-line with international urban planning trends, and perhaps further evidence of Auckland growing into its World Class City shoes.
So far the plan’s focus has been on pedestrianising larger streets – such as Fort and Federal – but with Auckland CBD housing a rabbit warren of existing but underutilised laneways and arcades, could the time be right for these smaller spaces to start seeing the love too? With some fresh thinking and creative approaches, could we actually see Auckland’s CBD steal Melbourne’s cool-kid crown? We reckon it’s definitely possible, and have come up with five ways that we think savvy retailers could make the most of our city’s laneways.
1. Put your best feature forward
Auckland CBD houses some truly beautiful historic architecture and this is especially evident in our laneways, where the slower pace and wider vantage point gives pedestrians the opportunity to appreciate the character. As well as providing a stunning street front, heritage buildings often hold special extras inside too, such as high studs, original flooring and unique, detailed period features. If your business is all about aesthetic – for example fashion, home, or art – then this is the sort of character space you want to be in. Create a fit-out that enhances and respects the historic aspects of the space, and the space will in turn enhance your product.
2. Get frontin’
We all know that one of the fundamentals of retail success is foot traffic and when the owners of those feet are slowed down, relaxed and actually paying attention to their surroundings they are more likely to buy. The upgraded Fort Street precinct is proof of this, with a recent survey showing retail hospitality spend as having shot up by 429% since the area was made pedestrian-friendly in late 2013. Take advantage of this lingering by making your storefront as inviting as possible – this means utilising outdoor seating allowances, creating fresh and eye-catching window displays, and keeping entranceways tidy and clear.
3. Love thy neighbour
Laneways are scaled to encourage commerce and community to connect. They naturally offer the kind of intimacy and old school vendor vibe that bigger spaces would kill (or pay big money) to achieve. Maximise this advantage by connecting with your fellow retailers. Work together to create communal events like late night shopping or family-friendly market days. Encourage reciprocity: your customer wants to know where to stop for lunch? Send them to the little cafe across from you. Where to find a new shirt? The guy two doors up is their man. Not only does this bring you a bit of good karma, but it also makes your customers feel like they’re buying into community, rather than just buying.
4. Go West
West of Queen Street, that is. While currently the most foot traffic heavy lanes are those on the east side of Queen Street, the west edge of the CBD offers plenty of opportunity for those looking ahead. Auckland Council is looking to extend its Shared Space vision to this area by turning the currently car-heavy Hobson and Nelson Streets into people-friendly boulevards. With the plan forecast for a 2032 completion, this is definitely more of a long-game option. In the meantime, those looking for something in the nearer future should keep an eye out for opportunities on up-and-coming west hotspots such as Mills Lane, Durham Lane and Darby Street.
5. Find your place
Slower foot traffic, dreamy architecture, community spirit… sounds good, right? If you’re sold on the Laneway Revival then your best bet is to chat with a professional about how your business could get a piece of the action. From high profile redevelopments to established gems; hospocentric precincts to market-style shopping lanes; big-ticket to budget-friendly there’s a laneway or sharedspace option somewhere for you… it’s just a matter of finding it.