With the first residents moving into Wynyard Quarter, Panuku Design and Place Director Rod Marler, who recently won an Urban Design Award for his role in the area’s renewal, reflects on what the milestone means.
What’s the significance of the first residents moving in?
It’s huge as it really marks the transition of Wynyard Quarter from what was once an unloved, rarely visited part of the waterfront to one of the coolest destinations in the city to visit, work and now live. It’s exciting and is a coming of age moment for the precinct in many ways.
It’s a big milestone for the city too as it demonstrates that we can re-purpose former brownfields sites across Auckland like Wynyard once was, into flourishing mixed-use neighbourhoods where people want to live.
What have been the big steps along the way to get to this point?
The amazing thing is just how quickly this milestone has snuck up on us. It seems like only yesterday we were welcoming Aucklanders back to this part of the city when the newly revitalised public spaces opened just before the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Since then in quick succession we’ve put out the Waterfront Plan in 2012, followed by the go-to-market investor search kicking off in 2013, and a year later appointing residential and commercial development partners.
Obviously much of the credit must go to the team of contractors and consultants we’ve worked with over the years, but it does really highlight the value of an urban development agency too. Having an entity that has control of land on behalf of council with a clear mandate, the funding, and a team of visionary people onboard to create a vision, sell it and deliver it.
What’s been the process to ensure quality in design and build from the private sector?
Pushing for market-leading design and housing product is all about a collaborative process. In many ways it’s about de-risking the proposition with planning and structure around land purchase and in return ensuring development partners focus goes beyond commercial outcomes. Delivering the public realm first was key as it provided certainty to investors, giving them the confidence to invest in this part of the city, and it set the bar with essential and desired outcomes.
On the design front, we’ve been very lucky to have robust in-house design expertise in Waterfront Auckland and now Panuku to develop a quality reference design and our development partners were then challenged to meet that or do better.
With a fish factory, boat building yards and theatres all within close proximity, how has this been embraced as part of the living offer?
The eclectic nature of Wynyard Quarter certainly makes it a unique proposition as a place to live but I think this is part of the attraction as there’s a real richness to it and an appreciation for the retention of the gritty industrial history and marine industrial activities.
On a final note, what does this milestone mean to you personally?
For me Wynyard Quarter is all about the people and their connection with the place. I get the greatest sense of satisfaction when walking around the quarter to overhear people talking with pride about how the area has changed and the authentic feel it offers. We’ll now have a residential community made up of families, young professionals and downsizers who’ll develop their own deeper connection with the place and be able to experience a fantastic waterfront lifestyle that’s totally unique to Wynyard Quarter.