Wellington Scoop

Willis Bond planning multi-level (Music Centre?) building on Michael Fowler car park

building on mfc

What’s really planned for the car park?

News from Wellington City Council
The Wellington City Council will this Thursday consider a proposal for a 175-year ground lease to enable property developer Willis Bond to transform the Michael Fowler Centre car park into a multi-level, green building with outdoor public spaces.

“We’re aiming to reinvigorate Te Ngākau Civic Precinct and potentially pave the way for the location in the precinct of the proposed National Music Centre,” says Mayor Andy Foster.

“The stunning design incorporates around 15,000sqm of new mixed-use space in the inner city. The lower levels with retail or hospitality activities will attract more people and create stronger connections between Te Ngākau Civic Square, lower Cuba Street and our beautiful waterfront,” says Mayor Foster.

Anchoring the National Music Centre in this exciting new building would help ensure that the Te Ngākau Civic Precinct is vibrant, distinctive and an asset for all Wellingtonians, says Peter Biggs, CEO of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

“It would place Wellington and Aotearoa New Zealand with the great music centres of the world, on par with New York, Berlin, London and Helsinki.”

Professor Grant Guilford, Vice-Chancellor of Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, welcomes the proposed development, describing it as an exciting opportunity to progress the creation of a vibrant and innovative new music centre. “We’re looking forward to working with the City Council and Willis Bond to bring this to fruition,” says Professor Guilford.

The Chair of the Council’s Pūroro Āmua Planning and Environment Committee, Councillor Iona Pannett, says the proposed development is a great example of how good design can protect Te Ngākau Civic Precinct for future generations. “Willis Bond plans to use base isolators to help protect the building and its occupants in significant earthquakes and raise the ground floors to cope with rising sea levels due to climate change.

“As well as delivering a minimum 5-Star Green Star rated building, Willis Bond plans to landscape this area with much-needed green spaces to make the precinct more welcoming and provide shade. The site will also include several accessible car parks near the Michael Fowler Centre for people to use when attending events.”

Willis Bond Director David McGuinness says it’s exciting to have the opportunity to work with the Council to improve the usability, resiliency, and attractiveness of this iconic area in the Capital. “Our plan is to deliver a landmark building which integrates with the Michael Fowler Centre, the wider Te Ngākau Civic Precinct and key city connections. Its mixed-use design means we will be able to deliver more much needed flexible, safe space to serve the growing city.”

Leasing the car park was agreed to in the 2015-25 Long-term Plan (page 62) as one way to revitalise Te Ngākau Civic Precinct without creating additional debt to Council or ratepayers.

Following a public tender process, Willis Bond was selected as the preferred development partner in 2016 but the proposal was paused following the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake.

Progressing the development partnership was reconfirmed this year in the 2021-2031 Long-term Plan. On Thursday, officers are seeking approval from Council to finalise the proposal with Willis Bond.

“Post the 2016 decision Willis Bond with great patience, for which I thank Willis Bond for, agreed to delay finalising the agreement so the Council could carry out assessments of all Te Ngākau Civic Precinct structures after the Kaikoura earthquake. Subsequently the car park has been used for a temporary rehearsal space for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, while the St James Theatre strengthening work was underway,” says Mayor Foster.

If approval is given, Willis Bond will apply for resource consent. If consent is given, Willis Bond plans to begin work on-site in late 2022/early 2023.

The Council is working with the Royal New Zealand Ballet on how and when to dismantle the temporary studio in the MFC car park. The Council is also looking into options for the sale of the relocatable building.

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  1. Toni, 27. September 2021, 11:34

    So what is happening about the proposed music centre in MOB building? Or is all of the Civic Square precinct going to be an extension of the University’s school of Music?

  2. Claire, 27. September 2021, 12:07

    Does this proposed new building have apartments in it? With the push for houses everywhere, it should have. [The WCC’s announcement this morning makes no mention of apartments.]

  3. Jim the Yimby, 27. September 2021, 13:19

    This will be great – a better use of space than a surface carpark. With the strengthened Town Hall, replacement of the West Plaza, and revitalization of the Amora, it will bring back some life to that end of town. Has been looking a bit sad in recent years.

  4. Richie Bestingface, 27. September 2021, 14:19

    When is the mayor presenting Willis Bond with the keys to the city? (If they haven’t already).

  5. greenwelly, 27. September 2021, 14:45

    Toni, the MOB has been slated for demolition after its most recent seismic assessment – the costs to strengthen would make it too expensive for the music school to rent.

  6. Meredith, 27. September 2021, 16:22

    Gosh what more public land is being sold (a lease this long is legally a sale) to Willis Bond. For how much? Can it please be disclosed.

  7. James S, 27. September 2021, 17:57

    Why is the Council not selling this land through a competitive process rather than picking its preferred developer again? [The council announcement says: Following a public tender process, Willis Bond was selected as the preferred development partner in 2016.]

  8. Toni, 27. September 2021, 21:26

    Well, seems like any council land is up for grabs to anyone. Gave away part of Frank Kitts Park for a Chinese garden a couple of years ago, and now most of the rest of the park for a Pacifica Fale Marae (supposedly a national project). No doubt developers are hunting for what’s left to build on. Little wonder the inner-city is critically short of green open space.

  9. D'Esterre, 28. September 2021, 10:15

    Well: there goes the carpark. It used to be such a handy pick-up and drop-off point, and a handy place to park for those of us less mobile, but needing to go to the library (when we had one) or to businesses nearby. We knew we’d lost it, once WCC allowed the RNZB to use it temporarily. This announcement just confirms it. Another piece of public land lost to private use.

  10. Ray Chung, 28. September 2021, 15:09

    I consider that this is a repeat of the council approving the Fale Malae. The councillors know nothing about this project but they’re being asked to approve it nonetheless. There’s no point in blaming Willis Bond, they’re just there to make money.
    Claire: sure, it would be nice to have apartments there but my guess is that they’d be $2 million up! Hardly anything that will make even the slightest ripple in the burgeoning house price increases in Wellington.

  11. Hel, 28. September 2021, 17:25

    Come on Ray, how can the councillors not know anything about this! The press release comes from the Council and quotes the Mayor and Councillor Pannett, and references decisions made in long term plans. [The agenda papers given to councillors for Thursday’s meeting make no reference to any proposal for the new building to be used for the music centre.]


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