Wellington Scoop

Selling the (car) park

aerial civic sq

The Wellington City Council is carrying out one of its development threats. It’s advertising for a developer to build an eight-storey building alongside the Michael Fowler Centre.

Saturday’s advertisement doesn’t specify what height will be allowed. But a year ago, when the plan was announced, they were talking about a building 27 metres high “as of right”. Which would mean an eight-storey building towering over the MFC, and blocking more of the view from the Amora Hotel.

At that time they said the signing of ground leases or “other financial arrangements” relating to three sites around the Civic Square Precinct could raise up to $25 million, which would be used to help pay for strengthening city buildings including the Town Hall. (Councillors had agreed to spend $40m on the Town Hall, but they baulked when estimates lifted the cost to $60m.)

green jack ilott

As for the other two sites: as yet there’s been no advertising for the controversial plan to build on Jack Ilott Green, or the less controversial idea of finding a private user for the 1951 Municipal Office Building, with all staff being moved into the newer (1991) administration block and the top floors of the library.

And what’s the duration of the ground lease that’s being offered for the open space next to the Michael Fowler Centre? Saturday’s advertisement promises a “long-term leasehold,” but nothing specific. It’s public land, of course, being offered for private use. A recent example is Willis Bond’s deal for building apartments on the site of the Overseas Passenger Terminal – they succeeded in negotiating 125 years. They also got a dollar-a-year lease, which Peter Love described as a joke, though it wasn’t as sweet a deal as the one that Willis Bond (again) negotiated for its Chews Lane development on council land – 250 years for another dollar a year.

The council will have to try harder this time, if the Civic Square strengthening projects are to benefit from any real financial input.

Expressions of interest are being sought, by someone named Steve McColl who is described as City Shaper at the city council. (Strange titles these days.)

And the expressions of interest must be received by 28 January.

“You don’t get more high-profile than this,” says the advertisement.

It’s a reminder of when the Michael Fowler Centre was built alongside the Town Hall – with the initial intention being to demolish the Town Hall. Public outrage ensured that the demolition didn’t happen. Will there be any similar outrage about losing more public open space, and replacing it with an eight-storey building outside the big windows of one of the city’s principal concert halls?


  1. luke, 14. December 2015, 8:49

    good riddance to the carpark, a waste of prime real estate.

  2. Mike, 14. December 2015, 9:25

    Surely the car park is a blot on the landscape, rather than “public open space”?

  3. Traveller, 14. December 2015, 9:40

    The trees around the car park are not blots on any landscape. And if there’s an eight-storey building, the landscape will be gone …

  4. Rebecca, 14. December 2015, 9:57

    An eight-storey building on Jack Ilott Green will not only shade Civic Square but also the St John’s bar, the marae, the lagoon and destroy the view from the waterfront looking back towards the city. This is one of the few ‘pocket parks” left on the city side of Jervois Quay and must be retained for this purpose.

  5. Trish, 14. December 2015, 10:01

    I say: Save the Town Hall and sell the carpark.

  6. Andrew, 14. December 2015, 10:04

    Excellent “public open space” available in Civic Square a hundred metres away. How exactly have I as a member of the public been able to use the car parking space for the past 30 years?

  7. Wendy, 14. December 2015, 10:19

    Instead of selling off the car park for a building that is going reduce the limited open space in this area and dominate the MFC, the Council should be looking to upgrade the gardens/trees around the car park to complement the MFC.

    What’s with this Council trying to sell off any space they can find ????

    Jack Ilott Green is another example. The only remaining pocket green by the Civic Square and they want to do the same thing there without any thought to all of the people now living in the inner city. Shame on them.

  8. luke, 14. December 2015, 11:15

    whatever they put there is an improvement on that ugly carpark. not that an 8 storey building is or isnt the best use of space, but a carpark is close to the worst.

  9. Kb, 14. December 2015, 13:47

    How exactly will the council raise up to $25 million by leasing the carpark to a private developer? I’m guessing it will be a large upfront fee in return for a very long term $1 a year lease. The question of whether or not it’s a good deal or not for ratepayers will depend on the amount of the large upfront fee. [“Up to” $25m was specified by the council as being expected from leasing both pieces of public land as well as the 1951 Municipal Building]

  10. Nora, 14. December 2015, 16:34

    Does the car park site include the colourful garden plots across from the Xero/Market Lane building, not to mention the lovely trees. Like Jack Ilott Green, as you walk/drive along these are the only green pocket parks until you reach Midland Park and the railway station.

    Beware also of bulldozing planned for the Frank Kitts Park amphitheatre. Perhaps the Chinese garden which is to be built there (originally proposed between Te Papa and Herd Street) could go on the Michael Fowler Car Park.

    With three new upgraded buildings on Jervois //Waterloo Quay, not to forget North Queens Wharf (Kumutoto), does Wellington really need two more eight-storey office blocks?

  11. Curtis Nixon, 14. December 2015, 22:00

    Two good things about the current car park next to Michael Fowler Centre:
    1. It is ringed with beautiful pohutukawa trees; developers generally remove trees to maximise the footprint of their building;
    2. It provides an open view north of the harbour.
    An unfortunate trend is that the waterfront is blocked by tall buildings all the way around, in essence the city is turning its back on our beautiful harbour. Te Papa does this, the Meridian and BNZ buildings have contributed recently as well.

    A worrying trend is the loss of public amenities in central Wellington. The only grassed areas left are Jack Ilott Green, Midland Park and Glover Park. Justice Park had the Supreme Court built on it. Public toilets on Bowen St were removed when the Cenotaph was redeveloped. Public toilets on the corner of Lambton, Featherston and Hunter Sts were moved with in the last couple of years. Pubs and cafes have bought the rights to have their exclusive seating on Cuba Mall and other public footpaths, cluttering and blocking pedestrian thoroughfare.

    With diminishing green space in the city you end up with a concrete jungle like Tokyo, harbour hidden from view, with only the rich and powerful able to see the view from their high-rise windows.

  12. CC, 14. December 2015, 22:52

    No worries Curtis – same thing has happened in harbour cities all over the world. The consolation is that in a few hundred years time, people will wake up and spend a fortune to get rid of the dross while saving a few of the oldest buildings to prove there was a bit of class somewhere in the history of the city. In the meantime, a few of the plunderers-in-chief like Willis Bond will be able to look at their wealth grow, while the open space and expansive views of the harbour and hills continue to diminish. The biggest problem is that Wellington is on a downward spiral while most other harbour endowed cities are rediscovering why they existed in the first place.

  13. Sekhmet Bast Ra, 15. December 2015, 1:18

    I agree with Curtis Nixon regarding the lack of public amenities. After hours in Lambton Quay area there is one single toilet open down the side street by ANZ Bank .

    Given the lack of public conveniences, it’s no surprise that Masons Lane is presently being utilised as an improvised urinal. Same goes for the pedestrian tunnel that goes from the top of Woodward under The Terrace to the car park. Thanks to the thoughtfulness of the Council, that tunnel comes complete with a recorded sound sculpture on continuous playback, namely the dreaded Eco-propaganda message of native birdsong along with the sound of running water, which is an irresistible encouragement for gentlemen in a state of urgency.

    So, my message to the Council is in the interests of public health let’s get some more 24 hour public conveniences down there in Lambton Quay zone and lets do it before you send the Eco-police to round up people’s cats or engaging in the next grandiose development scheme.

  14. Michael Gibson, 15. December 2015, 8:03

    One of the pleasures of visiting the Amora Hotel (or eating there!) is the open view across the Michael Fowler car-park & its nice green trees. This would be a real loss to Wellington as well as visitors to the Amora.

  15. Trish, 15. December 2015, 8:57

    I really have trouble with those of you who seem to be against every development that is ever suggested for Wellington. Defending a carpark?? No-one has even suggested that it be turned into a park, as Waterfront Watch did at North Queens Wharf. Can’t you have faith that the Council will require the ring of pohutukawa trees be retained around a new building? I like the idea of the harbour being framed by a line of 8 storey buildings that enjoy a harbour view from the other side of the Quays and looking across the green waterfront parks.

  16. Guy, 15. December 2015, 9:30

    From memory there is a gigantic underground tank for storage of storm water in the carpark. Which will surely limit the development size / extent. Did the advertisement in the paper happen to mention that ?

  17. Elaine Hampton, 15. December 2015, 16:04

    I really have trouble with anyone who wants our harbour ringed by 8 story buildings! Have faith that the council will retain the trees, yeah right.
    How will the lease of the land for buildings gross $25 million, remember the inflated rates estimate on the building on Kumototo wharf. And $25 million in what time scale?
    Council ignoring the current office buildings who pay rates, how many offices do we need?
    City shaper!!! Not elected, probably overpaid. Ratepayers should have a vote on these projects.
    More trees, parks and toilets I say.

  18. Henry Filth, 16. December 2015, 5:40

    What happened to the Old Cuba Street floral clock? Bringing it back makes more sense than cramming the town with tall sun-blocking, wind-funneling buildings.

  19. Wendy, 16. December 2015, 10:57

    The Council seems hell-bent on turning Wellington into a concrete jungle. With the huge increase of people living in the city we need more a lot open spaces not less. The MFC car park has been neglected but that is no reason to lose it. If the Council also get their way in allowing a high rise building on Jack Ilott Green adjacent to the Civic Square, we will have lost the remaining pocket green in this area. The Civic Square will lose its openness and wonderful views as you wander up to the City and Sea bridge and be boxed in by buildings.
    Hard to believe we have a “green” mayor!!

  20. Rumpole, 16. December 2015, 13:44

    Members of the jury: The Willis Bond & Co sole owner and shareholder is expected to again be gifted more public land by the City Council. You are required to reach your decision on whether he should organise a Christmas party for his supportive councillors and their officials.

  21. Kay, 17. December 2015, 4:45

    With the number of apartment buildings in the city we need all the open spaces we now have- why can’t the councilors appreciate this !!! Jack Ilott Green shouldn’t be built on. We don’t need to increase the concrete jungle