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More Tall Buildings Predicted

By Simon Collins

WELLINGTON can expect three or four new "tall buildings" in the next five years, says Mayor Mark Blumsky

He told a Lambton Ward meeting on 15 Feb that a 23-storey tower planned for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Lambton Quay was not an isolated instance

Residents at the meeting complained that the Foreign Affairs building got planning consent without public notification

The building is now being funded through a public float to investors, managed by FR Partners

"I'm aware of two others that are being planned now," Blumsky told the meeting

"I think we'll see three or four other tall buildings coming up. It's been interesting the way the market has changed regarding the demand for quality office space. There is a hotel also that is having a look.”

Melrose resident John Warren told the meeting he would have objected to the Foreign Affairs building if it had been notified because he believed such tall buildings should be stepped back from the road, as other buildings are along Lambton Quay

"My feeling is that there would be a crowding effect [if buildings rise directly from the street]," he said

Oriental Bay Residents' Association president Roger Newport said: "At one time it was the policy of council that when a development was going to happen, the neighbours were told about it. Now no one knows about it until the bulldozers arrive.”

Wadestown Residents' Association president John Shrapnell said the Foreign Affairs building didn't fit the District Plan rules

Senior council manager Derek Fry confirmed that a liftwell on the building will be more than nine metres above the height limit

In approving this, he said, officers took account of the fact that the development would preserve the facades of Lambton Quay's historic Harcourts Building and Hamilton Chambers

Mark Blumsky said the developers originally wanted to demolish these buildings and put up a two-tiered structure with the tower set back from the street. The council persuaded them to preserve the historic facades instead

He told City Voice later that developers who had been to see him in the past eight months about new building projects were proposing both office towers and hotels. One was as big as the Foreign Affairs tower, and the others were smaller. One building was going up next to Kelvin Chambers on The Terrace

"I believe they will seriously get off the ground. I think it's a good, healthy sign," he said

All the proposals were for different sites. Two were from overseas developers, two from Auckland and one from a local developer

The chief executive of Capital Properties and chair of the local Property Council, Nick Wevers, said his company was not planning any new buildings

"Personally I would be surprised if there is a demand for several new buildings in Wellington in the next few years," he said

However, there is speculation about the empty site opposite the Railway Station in Bunny St, which was bought recently by Waltus Investments and an Auckland developer who recently built the New York-style Metropolis apartments in Auckland

Deputy Mayor Kerry Prendergast says there is also interest in the former Circa Theatre site next to Civic Square for a hotel. The council's finance and corporate committee will decide on 27 March whether to sell this site, which is currently grassed

Cr Mary Varnham says the site should not be sold because it is "part of Civic Square" and there are "a lot of potential public uses for it”

"There is a complete mania for asset sales on this council… It's an ideological thing.”

Kerry Prendergast says a hotel on the site would give the square "the vital element of 24-hour activity", and would also help to pay for public space development on the waterfront

• Circa site submissions: Shaun Gadsby, 801 3767. top top

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