Changes in store

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Jo­ce­lyn Rein

DE­VEL­OP­ERS the Mar­lin Group say they will ad­dress com­mu­nity con­cerns over a lack of re­tail space at Soho Square.

In clos­ing ar­gu­ments on the fi­nal day of re­source con­sent hear­ings on Mon­day, lawyer Rus­sell Bartlett said his client has al­ready ex­tended re­tail space and could add more.

The de­ci­sion to grant re­source con­sent for the $250 mil­lion project now lies with com­mis­sion­ers.

The pro­posal for five build­ings and 52 res­i­den­tial apart­ments to­tals 47,738 square me­tres and in places reaches more than 31 me­tres high, dou­ble the 15-me­tre height limit.

Mr Bartlett urged the panel not to ask for a fur­ther re­design as he saw “lit­tle need for it”.

Re­tail space has in­creased from 499 square me­tres to 4380 square me­tres – in­clud­ing 1880 square me­tres of cafe space.

Mr Bartlett called the new ver­sion “much im­proved”.

“I think it ties things up in a very sat­is­fac­tory man­ner.”

He also said the rooftop dome struc­ture, pro­posed for Wil­liamson Ave, could be re­duced if the com­mis­sion­ers thought it nec­es­sary.

In his right of re­ply Mr Bartlett ad­dressed sig­nif­i­cant sub­mis­sions made dur­ing the hear­ing, held over the past three weeks.

Of the 863 sub­mis­sions re­ceived, 809 have op­posed the de­vel­op­ment. Grey Lynn and Pon­sonby res­i­dents yes­ter­day made their fi­nal pleas for the de­vel­op­ment to be turned down.

Ma­ree Quinn ques­tioned what the pro­posal had to of­fer the com­mu­nity, say­ing the huge bulk of of­fice space was “built to squeeze the profit out of the last square inch”.

Dr Ruth Wat­son, who lives within 500 me­tres of the de­vel­op­ment, agreed a lack of re­tail space could turn it into “an­other dan­ger zone or graf­fiti site”.

“Ac­cess to busi­nesses is hardly an at­trac­tive com­mu­nity gift,” she said.

Speak­ing about the pro­posed ground level “Soho Street” walk­way run­ning through the de­vel­op­ment, she said: “I hardly ever seek out walk­ways be­tween offices when I’m in pub­lic space.”

Hopetoun St res­i­dent Pa­tri­cia Reade said the dark al­ley­ways and cor­ners would be­come a han­gout for pimps, pros­ti­tutes and drug dealers at night.

Other sub­mit­ters ex­pressed con­cern about the im­pact on traf­fic in sur­round­ing streets.

Auck­land city coun­cil­lor Graeme Easte made a per­sonal sub­mis­sion, call­ing the pro­posal “over paid, over sexed and over here”.

He en­cour­aged Mar­lin Group not to go to the En­vi­ron­ment Court if the re­source con­sent is de­clined but rather to “seek some gen­uine com­mu­nity in­put” to achieve a good out­come.

When asked by com­mis­sioner Karyn Sin­clair what a good out­come would be, he said some­thing “con­sid­er­ably smaller”.

“At the mo­ment it turns its back on Pon­sonby Rd,” he said.

In re­sponse to Mr Easte, Mr Bartlett said there was never go­ing to be neigh­bour­hood con­sen­sus on the pro­posal.

“The idea that af­ter this meet­ing we’re go­ing to sit around singing Kum­baya and talk­ing about it – for­get it.”

Mr Bartlett also dis­missed any idea of re­duc­ing the height of the Soho de­vel­op­ment say­ing it was not only un­nec­es­sary but would have “pro­foundly neg­a­tive” ef­fects.

Pon­sonby’s fu­ture? An artist’s im­pres­sion of the pro­posed Soho Square de­vel­op­ment.

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