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Queen Street set for comeback

Queen Street set for comeback

Work on transforming Auckland's iconic Queen Street into a world-class, people-friendly main street, will begin on 4 January 2006.

The $30 million project is designed to produce a quality and style unmatched in New Zealand and re-establish the street's status as the country's number one destination for business, shopping and entertainment.

"It's been one of New Zealand's most prominent streets for 150 years but a transformation is required to match our aspirations for Auckland as a world-class city," said Mayor of Auckland City Dick Hubbard, announcing the start date today.

"Queen Street's revitalisation will be the signature event of a $100 million, 10-year, programme to ensure the central city's streets and open spaces compare with the world's best.

"This project isn't just about how our main street looks. It's also about how to make it work better. The plans have been through extensive consultation, including two reviews by the urban design panel, looking at layout, pedestrian and traffic movements, lighting and much more," he said.

The 18-month project will be progressed in stages to minimise disruption. Stage one, starting on 4 January, will run from Mayoral Drive to Wellesley Street, beginning with work at Airedale Street.

Pedestrians will benefit from the final design. Measures include:

wider footpaths

improved streetlights

additional canopies on the eastern side

new street furniture and artworks

improved plantings

less street clutter

more mid-block crossings

shorter waiting times at lights.

Auckland City may trial pedestrian countdown clocks signalling the time left to cross at lights.

At this stage, vehicle access to Queen Street is being retained. Keeping the street open to traffic also future-proofs it for later investigation of new public transport options.

The new footpaths will be a mix of basalt paving with granite insets and red chip pavers recycled from the existing paths. Innovative new lighting poles will incorporate signage and street banners to reduce clutter. A special maintenance programme will keep the new street in tiptop condition.

Although some disruption is unavoidable during construction, half of the footpath will be open to pedestrians with clear access to businesses and shops at all times. Paving will be cut with "whisper blade" technology inside an insulation booth to minimise noise and dust.

Other features will include a new emphasis on trees and the natural environment. Native planting, including mature nikau palm and cabbage trees, will be used to reintroduce species that would have grown in the valley and upper street. Some existing trees will be retained while others that are struggling will be removed. Large planter basins will allow a regular change of plants to match seasons and add colour and vitality.

Artworks by leading artists and the use of materials in pavement patterns will celebrate key events and cultural references to the street's history. Existing ceramic tile murals will be removed intact and relocated elsewhere in the city in consultation with the original artists and sponsors.

Key stakeholders including businesses, retailers, and property owners who have taken part in the consultation process have warmly welcomed the project start.

Heart of the City's Alex Swney said he acknowledged there would be some disruption but the focus had to be on a long-term quality outcome celebrating Auckland's place as a world-class Pacific city.

"We've worked with the council to develop the CBD targeted rate to help fund the project and in developing and refining the design. It's been a strong and collaborative process over 18 months to ensure we get the best for New Zealand's shop window," he said.

Connal Townsend, national director of the Property Council said the Property Council was an enthusiastic supporter of Auckland City's rejuvenation of the CBD.

"The Queen Street upgrade is probably the most crucial, and certainly the most visual, part of that initiative. Our members are proud to support this with a real contribution in the form of the special targeted rate we are now paying each year. This injection of funding means the project can be accelerated so we all realise the benefits of a revitalised CBD," he said.

The $100 million streetscape programme is part of the council's wider Auckland's CBD Into the future strategy guiding the revitalisation of the city's economic and cultural heart.

With the region's population expected to grow by 255,000 in the next ten years, hundreds of millions of dollars from rates and private investors are being poured into the city for projects such as the Vector Arena, Britomart heritage precinct, waterfront developments, Art Gallery extensions, central library upgrade, and public transport and roading improvements.

"Urban design, retail and investment strategies for the CBD are also underway. These have been identified as key issues which need to be addressed if the city is to become world-class," said the Mayor.

"The CBD is not just the gateway to Auckland but to New Zealand. The impact of our vision for the CBD will have economic benefits for the whole country," he said.

"To be competitive on the world stage and attract overseas investment we have to offer world class facilities. With the Queen Street upgrade, we're on our way."


Ends

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