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Laneway project a glimpse of the future

The transformation of a drab central city laneway into an elegant place for pedestrians to pause is a taste of things to come for Lower Hutt’s central city.

The lane runs between High and Dudley streets, adjacent to the former BNZ Bank building at 177 High Street, which is being redeveloped by the Wellington Company into apartments on the upper three floors and retail and hospitality at ground level.

The laneway project is a collaboration between the Wellington Company and Hutt City Council, with both organisations sharing the cost. The Wellington Company has been an important player in the redevelopment of Wellington City’s urban environments.

The refurbished laneway will feature granite paving, ground cover planting and climbing plants and timber wall seating. Suspended lighting will create a twinkling effect and highlight features in the paving. Retail or hospitality businesses on the ground floor of 177 will open out into the lane.

The existing canopy over the lane will be removed to let in natural light and improve passive surveillance and security. Work is expected to start on the laneway this week and it will be closed to the public during construction. Once completed at the end of the year, the lane will reopen as a public thoroughfare.

Hutt City Council Urban Design Manager Paki Maaka says what makes the project especially important is that it’s the first step in upgrading the central city’s laneway system. The laneways are a critical piece in the puzzle to connect the central city to Hutt River/Te Awa Kairangi and the future riverside promenade.

The central city is dominated by north-south streets, effectively separating the river from the city centre. Council’s recently published Central City Transformation Plan, which considers ways of reinvigorating the area, recommends improving east-west connections, including the existing laneway system. The plan envisages the laneways will accommodate boutique retail, bars and cafes, creating an appealing and stimulating environment, as well as a way to navigate the central city.

“So while this project is modest in the physical scale of the wider central city, it’s an important step in creating an active and dynamic city centre and opening it up to the river,” Paki Maaka says.

“Equally important is that the Wellington Company, together with Council, has opted for a quality design and build, so this project sets the standard for development in this precinct and beyond.”

The laneway project is part of a series of lanes that will run from Dowse Square to the river.

Wellington Company founder and director Ian Cassels, says the company is excited at the prospect of the laneway becoming a catalyst for activity and vibrancy in the area around 177 High Street, which the company has dubbed the High Street Quarter. The development will add another 20 homes to the area, as part of the government’s KiwiBuild housing programme.

“The laneway will be an important element to the High Street Quarter, not just as a thoroughfare for the community, but also as a pleasant and stimulating environment for both the residents of 177 High Street and the wider community,” he says.

“The success and importance of laneways in modern urban environments is evident in cities such as Melbourne and, more recently, Wellington City.”

The new laneway is designed by the Local Landscape Architecture Collective.

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