This week’s decision to refuse permission to demolish the 1920s Harcourts building in Lambton Quay shows an admirable concern for the heritage values which are a major part of the appeal of central Wellington. The next issue: will the city council show a similar concern with its decision about roading changes at the Basin Reserve?
The Harcourts decision was reported briefly by the DomPost on Monday. The owner wants to completely demolish the historic building. But the resource consent decision says he has not considered every reasonable alternative solution for retaining it, including the possibility of strengthening it.
The decision recognises the building’s importance as described by the Historic Places Trust, which has listed it in its top number one heritage category:
Aesthetically significant for its bold, sculptural facade, a crucial element in the Lambton Quay streetscape, and perhaps the best example in the city of the Chicago style. The building is in remarkably authentic condition, both outside and in significant interior spaces.
Equally important for the cityscape of Wellington is the open space around the Basin Reserve, where the Transport Agency wants to build a flyover across Kent and Cambridge Terraces. The city council’s report on alternatives – due on Friday – has been foreshadowed by Andy Foster in the DomPost, though it’s surprising that two of his five options include the flyover, which a majority of councillors (and a majority of Wellingtonians) do not support. Here’s what he says the council is considering:
Supporting the flyover as proposed;
Supporting a flyover but only on the basis of modifications to offset its impact;
Supporting a ground level option;
Supporting Option X;
Or concluding neither option X nor a ground level alternative is viable, but that the [negative?] impact of the flyover outweighs its transport benefits.
Councillor Foster takes a realistic view of the damage that roading has caused to Wellington. He writes that the Basin Reserve area is
part of a corridor obviously blighted by roading designations since the 1960s. An efficient transport system is vital to a city, but it is the city itself that is most important, and is the reason for, origin and destination of most of that transport. Our concern is the whole house, not just the corridor.
His description is painfully correct. A flyover would only extend the blight.
More about Harcourts:
No compelling case for demolition