Auckland Council reveals details of $452m, 21-level CBD construction project

A deal struck by Auckland Council will see a $452 million 21-level office/apartment/retail project rise above the new Aotea train station.

In the biggest new project planned for the CBD, Mayor Phil Goff said Panuku Development Auckland would sell an ex-carpark to Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) and the scheme would be a big CBD boost.

“MRCB has experience in developing integrated commercial and residential properties around transportation hubs and a good reputation for the design and quality of its developments,” Goff said.

Construction of the new Aotea Central is to start after the $4.4 billion City Rail Link is completed in 2024.

Aotea Station is being built beside the Bledisloe Building at the Albert St/Mayoral Dr/Wellesley St West/Wellesley St East intersection. The site’s address is 4-10 Mayoral Dr and 32-42 Wellesley St West.

It is forecast to be New Zealand’s busiest train station, diagonally opposite the council’s own headquarters in the ex-ASB Bank building.

“The project will replace what was once a car park with modern, well-designed and high density housing, as well as shops and commercial spaces in the heart of our city. The apartments and businesses it creates will have a great location, situated above the City Rail Link Aotea Station. It makes travel convenient and it’s close to attractions such as the Art Gallery and Aotea Centre,” Goff said.

Nine levels of offices, more than 60 apartments, public plaza are planned.

Panuku got $40m for a 125-year leasehold sale “following a fully contestable market process supported by an independent valuation. The development will begin after the construction of the City Rail Link’s Aotea Station, which is due to be completed in 2024,” a statement said.

The council has a forecast a $1b hole in its finances by 2024, with a $450m hole this financial year.

Asked why New Zealanders didn’t win the job, Goff said: “The reason we went to the Malaysians is that they have a huge track record so the work they have done is internationally renowned. They’re bringing in new ideas and expertise so of all the people who tendered for it, it was their design, track record and experience. Kiwis did tender for it – there were a range.”

The building is designed to step down to avoid shading Aotea Square, he said.

“There’ll be two underground levels, two levels of retail, nine floors of commercial and 10 residential at the top.”

Asked why new offices were planned during the work-from-home change, Goff said the developers could build more residential if that was what the market wanted. Asked why two floors of shops when so much of Queen St was vacant, Geoff said bringing more people into the city to live in apartments could help that.

A council statement said: “With an estimated gross development value of $452m, Aotea Central will be a multi-level mixed-use structure reaching 21 storeys at its highest point, with two further levels below ground.

“The site is a former car park that was used by Auckland Council’s fleet vehicles. It is now being used for the construction of CRL’s Aotea Station.”

Rod Aiken, council corporate property head, said the deal would enhance the CRL.

“We are glad to be able to support the city’s growth by releasing a car park to be developed into a precinct that will provide a unique experience for many. Providing opportunities to work and live alongside and above the emerging Aotea Station will transform this area of our city by offering terrific access for all to nearby entertainment, restaurants and shopping,” Aiken said.

David Rankin, Panuku chief executive, said choosing the developer was key.

“We sought a particular type of development partner which would understand the rare opportunity to contribute to the regeneration of this unique mid-town location. MRCB has a long history of quality transport-oriented developments in Malaysia and is committed to transforming the Mayoral Drive site to appeal to those wanting vibrant inner-city living and a low-carbon lifestyle right here in the centre of Auckland,” Rankin said.

MRCB developed the $6b Kuala Lumpur Sentral transport hub and business district, Malaysia’s largest railway station and in a financial city hub. The Kuala Lumpur-headquartered business is a construction and property development specialist.

Cristean Monreal, a director of project and development managers RCP in Auckland, said Melbourne-headquartered architects Woods Bagot had designed Aotea Central.

The full $40m would be paid “on completion of the station when the developers have unencumbered access to the site, but a 10 per cent deposit is payable now and is about to be paid”.

RCP would engage the builders who would sign a contract with MRCB, he said. Around 15,000sq m of office, 2000sq m of retail and 20,000sq m of residential was planned.

Renders showed only initial concepts and terraced gardens would be built “on the southern face as the building steps back to deal with daylight angles on Aotea Square”, Monreal said.

“This is the largest project planned in Auckland city, a huge opportunity for the city,” Monreal said.

RCP is the dual development and project management, Woods Bagot are architects, LandLAB are urban design and landscape architects, Holmes Consulting are structural engineers, Tattico is doing the town planning, Tonkin & Taylor geotechnical,Mott MacDonald building services, Cross Fire is doing the fire engineering, FLOW Transportation the traffic engineering and Cuesko quantity surveying.

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