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  • Writer's pictureDr Jenny Condie

Council joint venture could build suburban apartment complex

Updated: Sep 10, 2019

Media release

Wellington mayoral and northern ward candidate Dr Jenny Condie has today released sketches for a proposed apartment complex in Johnsonville.

Artist's impression of a possible apartment complex with shops on the ground floor. Suggested for Johnsonville Rd, currently the site of Countdown and The Warehouse.

“Wellingtonians clearly said they want our suburban centres to grow up, not out, in their response to the council’s Planning for Growth strategy,” Dr Condie said.

The Productivity Commission recommends that growing councils make greater use of Special Purpose Vehicles, which allow local councils to enter into a joint venture with central government and private developers to finance significant new housing developments.

“These drawings show the kind of project that council could deliver through a partnership with central government and private developers,” Dr Condie said.

The drawings show a five-storey apartment complex on Johnsonville Road, the current site of The Warehouse and Countdown. The ground floor is retail spaces and a public courtyard, with four floors of apartments above. The consented design for a new Johnsonville Shopping Centre is shown on the opposite side of the street in the night scene.

Artist's impression of Johnsonville Road at night, with currently consented designs for the new Johnsonville Shopping Centre on the left and possible new apartment complex on the right.

“Well designed projects like these can create vibrant neighbourhoods where people can easily walk to everything they need - public transport, shops, schools, and community facilities like the library, pool, and playground.”

A Special Purpose Vehicle is being used to finance the Milldale development of 9,000 homes in Auckland, a joint venture between Auckland Council, Crown Infrastructure Partners and Fulton Hogan Land Development.

The owners of the land on Johnsonville Road have not been consulted in developing these drawings. The drawings are merely intended to illustrate the type of development that would be possible using Special Purpose Vehicles to finance apartment buildings in Wellington’s suburban centres.

“If the property owners like the idea, then I would love to discuss it with them!” Dr Condie said.

The design for the drawings was inspired by the Arsenal Yards development in Boston. The drawings were produced by Kirsten Slade, illustrator of The Mapmakers Race, which was shortlisted for the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Map showing the suggested location of possible new apartment complex in Johnsonville. It is walking distance to transport and many other amenities.

Building Vibrant Communities - Policy Document

Improving housing affordability, to buy or rent, depends on increasing the supply of affordable housing in Wellington.

The Productivity Commission has written three reports since 2012 looking at the issue of housing affordability and urban planning.

As mayor of Wellington I would follow the Productivity Commission’s advice to increase the supply of affordable housing by freeing up land for redevelopment by:

  • rezoning land near to amenities and transport hubs for medium density housing, up to six storeys in some places;

  • removing planning restrictions that limit increased housing density and increase the cost per unit;

  • working together with KiwiBuild and property developers to deliver significant new affordable housing to the market;

  • working together with Housing New Zealand to build more high quality social housing;

  • using Special Purpose Vehicles to fund these joint venture developments off the council’s balance sheet;

  • using targeted rates so that new infrastructure is paid for by those who will use it.

Yet it is not enough to simply build more houses - we need to ensure we are building vibrant and connected communities.

In feedback on the council’s Planning for Growth strategy, Wellingtonians clearly said they don’t want more suburban sprawl - they want Wellington to grow up, not out. They also said that they want density to increase in all our suburban centres, not just in the city.

When there are more people living near each other, like in Te Aro, you get vibrant streets with shops, cafes, nightlife, and pedestrians. People choose to walk, cycle, or use public transport because it is easier than driving. Neighbours see each other on the streets and feel more connected. With effective long-term urban planning, we can create a similar vibrant atmosphere in our suburban centres, like Johnsonville, Karori, and Newtown.

To ensure that more relaxed planning rules don’t lead to low-quality development, I will also advocate for a Wellington Urban Design Panel, which would review development plans of larger developments. Auckland and Christchurch currently both have Urban Design Panels operating, including a mix of expertise from architects, urban planners, and landscape architects. It would be essential that, as in Auckland, members of the Property Council are on the panel to provide a commercial viewpoint in the discussions.

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