Council seeks Aotea remake partner with ‘right’ stuff

5:00 AM Saturday September 19, 2015 Colin Taylor

View of Auckland’s Aotea Quarter for which a partner is being sought by Auckland Council for redevelopment.

CBRE is undertaking a procurement process to find “the right” developer following the recent announcement that Auckland Council’s new urban regeneration agency is seeking a partner to help upgrade the Aotea Quarter - including redeveloping the Civic Administration Building at 1 Greys Avenue.

This news represents a landmark opportunity for the right organisation to help redefine central Auckland’s entertainment and cultural hub,” says John Schellekens of CBRE’s structured transactions and advisory section who, with colleague John Holmes, is making the search on behalf of Pānuku Development Auckland, the new urban regeneration council controlled organisation, which opened its doors on September 1.

“Expressions of interest are now being sought from leading developers with the capability to remodel the 22 level building and the balance of the 5000 sq m site,” Schellekens says.

He says documents have already been released to the market via the Government electronic tenders service (GETS) and the initial process is due to close at 5pm on September 30.

Pānuku Development Auckland, on behalf of the council, will consider the sale of the Civic Administration Building and surrounding land to the selected development party on a freehold or long term leasehold basis,” says Schellekens.

“This Auckland CBD hot spot is set to become the best connected part of the region, with a new rail station, improved bus links and the potential for light rail.

John Holmes says Pānuku Development Auckland is looking for a development partner with “the capability, capacity and track record to support and contribute to Auckland Council’s vision for the site”.

“Following the receipt of expressions of interest shortlisted parties may be invited into a Request for Development Proposal (RFDP) process, through which we will seek detailed development proposals from a shortlist of credible partners.”

Schellekens says that the Civic Administration Building which has been vacant since Auckland Council’s move to Albert Street in 2014, holds a significant place in Auckland’s history, having been a seat of local government since 1966. 

“Designed by Tibor Donner in 1951 and constructed in 1966 with advice from internationally renowned American seismic engineer John A. Blume, the building was originally intended to form the centrepiece of a wider masterplan for the site,” he says.

Upon completion, the 66 metre high structure was Auckland’s tallest building, one of the first high-rise experiments in the “international style” undertaken in New Zealand.

“It led Auckland’s tall building construction and is still a remarkable, lightweight and elegant example of the Modernist era in Auckland,” Holmes says.

He says the building has a gross floor area of 8479 sq m with an average floor plate of 453 sq m over its 22 floors including two basement levels, ground floor, mezzanine, and levels 1-18 above.

“The building exhibits progressive earthquake construction, with no sheer walls and welded floors being the structural element, and innovative steel structural columns. According to a report prepared by Salmond Reed Architects, the building’s lightweight, flexible steel frame with bolted moment connectors - rather than the more conventional frame with internal sheer walls and substantial diagonal bracing - also gives greater structural efficiency and improved internal planning.”

Clive Fuhr, project development director, central city at Pānuku Development Auckland, says that, based on a detailed seismic assessment completed in September 2013, it is expected the majority of the building’s structural elements are capable of achieving a seismic rating of over 67 per cent New Building Standard. “However, this will involve work during the redevelopment process.”

The building occupies 500 sq m of a larger 5000 sq m site which borders Mayoral Drive to the southwest, Greys Avenue to the southeast and the Aotea Centre and Aotea Square to the north.

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Artist’s impression of the redeveloped Aotea Quarter and Civic Administration Building. 

Since 2005 Auckland Council has worked with stakeholders through the Aotea Quarter Plan 2007 to enhance the Aotea Quarter as the civic, arts and cultural heart of the city and to provide a place for shared community activities in central Auckland that reflect the city’s identity.

New cultural facilities opened during the past decade include the Q Theatre and the redeveloped Auckland Art Gallery along with upgraded open spaces in Queen Street, Aotea Square, Lorne Street, Khartoum Place and Bledisloe Lane.

A consultation document Towards the Aotea Quarter Framework is currently out for public consultation which seeks to update and advance the strategic direction for the area set down in the Aotea Quarter Plan and more recently within the City Centre Masterplan (CCMP) 2012.

Tim Watts, manager city centre design and delivery at Auckland Council, says the core aim of the framework is to “realise a vision for Aotea Quarter through an outcomes-based approach”.

“Firstly, the quarter must be an enduring home for the arts, culture, entertainment and civic life, creating a unique destination experience. It must also provide liveable, vibrant and diverse neighbourhoods that engage with and support the core.

“It must be a public transport node that improves accessibility supports growth and enables high quality development. And it has to contain spaces and buildings that lead and showcase Auckland’s drive for sustainability and celebrate its cultural identify through Te Aranga Māori design principles.”

It must also “respond to the area’s potential as a future growth node associated with ongoing investment by the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology in the area, plus the new Aotea Station on the City Rail Link”.

The rail station, programmed to open in 2023, is expected to stimulate an additional 73,000 sq m of residential net floor area housing1825 additional residents and 249,000 sq m of commercial net floor area employing 12,450 additional workers in the quarter.

Holmes says that, in addition to the obvious potential for office use, the Civic Administration Building and surrounding site also present opportunities for hotel, hospitality, food and beverage and residential uses.

“The double-height space of the ground and mezzanine level provide ‘a sense of invitation’, and present attractive opportunities for hotel or civic uses. The building could also be projected out to the east with good quality food and beverage tenancies in order to better activate the public space.”

Fuhr says the spectacular views and natural daylight have strong residential potential. “In addition the rooftop level offers a stunning vantage point and would be perfectly suited to a public bar or restaurant similar to the international rooftop bars of Radio in London, Aer in Mumbai and Hotel de Rome in Berlin.

“The bespoke manufactured aluminium and other curtain wall cladding details should where possible be retained, refurbished, replicated or referenced in a replacement equivalent – as should the basement auditorium’s interior details. Submitters should also consider replacements that recognise the original external mosaic tiling removed in the last 10-20 years from north and south elevations.” Fuhr says.

Schellekens says submitters for the Aotea Quarter redevelopment need to demonstrate proposals that “restore the heritage values of the existing building as far as practicable and propose uses for the building that are compatible and complementary with the wider objectives of the Aotea Quarter Framework. They are also encouraged to submit proposals that will intensify the use of the site and create a frontage to Mayoral Drive.”

“In addition, submitters need to recognise the importance of the location and submit proposals of exemplary design quality, responding specifically to Te Aranga Māori design, sustainability and urban design best practice.”

Holmes says Pānuku Development Auckland wants a development partner with vision. “We are seeking a party capable of bringing a modern interpretation to the original site master plan - one which will establish a viable new purpose for the Civic Administration Building and leverage the heritage and connectivity value that exists in the surrounding land.

“The building and the Aotea precinct are ready to be re-positioned for the next 50 years,” he says. 

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John Schellekens, (left) & John Holmes of CBRE (right).