Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Christchurch: Is "quite good" good enough?

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  • Tim Croft,

    I wonder what Jane Jacobs, whose excellent though somewhat dated book The Death and Life of Great American Cities might say about this plan?

    There's a lot of only one primary use in each "hub" and this might create or renew some of the problems central Christchurch used to have, namely that it was empty at night. If there isn't a secondary use then each hub will become a dead zone when not being used for its primary function.

    There's some mention, but not a lot, of mixed residential use and while the new green space around the city looks nice in the daytime I wonder what kind of space it will be at night if higher density residential buildings don't spring up around it.

    And, finally, as Kristina Ford reiterates throughout her book The Trouble with City Planning: What New Orleans Can Teach Us residents actually need to know this is more than just another 100 day plan. Planning fatigue hasn't helped New Orleans.

    Tuscaloosa • Since May 2008 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tim Croft,

    There’s some mention, but not a lot, of mixed residential use and while the new green space around the city looks nice in the daytime I wonder what kind of space it will be at night if higher density residential buildings don’t spring up around it.

    The vagueness around residential development seems to be one of the key complaints in early responses. It's as is it's easier to draw plans with Big Things in them than to envisage how people might actually live in the new city.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17936 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Croft,

    Also, is it true, no light rail?

    Tuscaloosa • Since May 2008 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Croft,

    And it seems a lot of property owners and developers who already had plans of their own have been blindsided by this much larger plan and, quite rightly, feel annoyed their views haven't been taken into account.

    Not to go on (because I actually feel somewhat optimistic with some of it) but this is perhaps one of the biggest problems with planning: can you plan a city and expect it to function a certain way or do cities grow up organically (within the rules and regulations of zoning) and function the way people who live in them choose to have them function? I think the latter.

    Tuscaloosa • Since May 2008 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It's as is it's easier to draw plans with Big Things in them than to envisage how people might actually live in the new city.

    This.

    My problems are not so much with the details of the plan, as how this has been done, and how it will be. I mean, we had a plan for the Central City ages go, remember that? The council did it, and then the govt said, we're taking over and for a start you won't be needing the section that provides regulatory framework. Even on the Campbell Live piece last night they were talking about how the Free Market would "provide diversity". Yes, because that's how you get good urban design, the Free Market.

    I am slightly concerned that, without top-down integration, we'll have the problem we had before, of areas where there's nothing for people who actually live here, big buildings that are empty most of the time. The convention centre, the stadium. The first plan talked about "pocket parks". Now we have this huge stretch of "green space" - with a desperately-needed playground, thankfully - but what's that space going to be like to negotiate at night?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Ed Muzik,

    As someone who lived right in the middle of the CBD - my old flat will now be part of the frame - I have a few objections. I've been given a bit of stick on twitter for being negative about Christchurch in the last few weeks, but I can't help it if it doesn't inspire me. An obvious push is for sports - the covered stadium, the metro sports hub (ie QEII) and the development of Hagley Oval are all controversial projects. The oval plan will see part of the city's best asset be fenced off for the private benefit of cricket fans and broadcasters. The metro sports hub is a replacement for QEII, which was the only major council facility in the city's north-east, and will now be located in the south-west of the CBD.

    The stadium is an incredibly controversial decision, one that has divided opinion in the city, and has now been forced upon us. The major issue is around funding - as the Dunedin stadium has shown, these things can be a complete disaster for the ratepayers who pick up the tab. The City Council rejected a covered stadium in their draft city plan for exactly this reason - only for the government to announce that its exactly what they plan to do. While the costings haven't been announced yet, I believe that the government expects the council to pick up the tab for what will be a council asset. Even if the government does announce that they will fund the whole thing, I can think of a dozen better ways to spend the $200 million plus that a 35,000 -seat covered stadium will cost. How about housing for 35,000 people? It may not grab the headlines in the same way - but it would deliver predictable rents, something that a government of "sound economic managers" seem to keen to ignore.

    The other problem with the stadium is the location. It's crazy. Yes, the Turners and Growers site is largely empty, but the block north and the block south both have working businesses on them. Many of these businesses have moved into spaces in this area since the quake - C4 coffee, the public art gallery's Outer Spaces project, a new bar by the owners of the Brewery in Woolston which is due to open this month. These business owners have been doing their best to keep going in the post-quake era, and have made deliberate decisions to try and continue in the CBD. How are they rewarded? By having their operations ceased through compulsory acquisition by CERA.

    I like the idea of the Frame. Seems like a good way to artificially condense space and drive compact development. I like it so much that I'd consider moving into or building next to the frame (if I could afford to). Surely I'm not the only one who thinks that way. But the stadium butts up against the frame - three blocks of it. Three blocks of what would be prime residential, north-west facing land, I would think. Just seems like a great way to depress development in what should be one of the best locations in town.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Jacobs is, I hate to say it, pretty useless for talking about Chch, because central Christchurch is going to be a totally planned city.

    Personally I'd like more grand axes and triumphal ways, if we're going to be planned we may as well be planned.

    I don't like the height limit, it's a bad idea.

    Screw convention centres, I think that's one of the worst possible uses for a site of such civic significance.

    Also, heaps and heaps of embedded assumptions --- space will be made for a new cathedral etc.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1251 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It's as is it's easier to draw plans with Big Things in them than to envisage how people might actually live in the new city.

    Perhaps - but I'm always more than a little skeptical about how much of that you can plan for anyway. Canary Wharf is planned up the wazoo, and it's the only part of London I spent any time in that I wouldn't regret seeing sink beneath the Thames.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Tim Croft,

    Also, is it true, no light rail?

    Probably. The current government loathe public transport, especially if it's seeking money for capital expenditure. They're quite happy, however, to throw wads of cash at subsidies for their mates at Infratil/NZBus.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3731 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    The current government loathe public transport, especially if it's seeking money for capital expenditure.

    The light rail proposal for Chch - what people here call the Monorail - was... not your best example, though. If we were going to do rail for Chch, it should run to the growing commuter towns in Kaiapoi and Rolleston, and would mean moving the railway station back to the central city from its ridiculous location in Riccarton. The proposal in the draft plan was basically a city bus on rails.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    The fundamental problem I reckon is that most of the things that make cities neat places to be arise organically over time. In fact, they kind of require controlled decay – old buildings become cheap, run-down, and then new things arise in them and they get repurposed. A wholly new central city can’t have a cheap rundown street like K Road or Cuba or Brunswick in it, it can’t have cheap apartments shoved into unlikely places, in fact it just can’t have cheap and cheerful anything.

    [Update: in fact what we need is some deliberately crummy, short term buildings like the container mall. Then I predict that by 2030, people will be wringing their hands about how to stop the iron rusting and writing columns celebrating the quirky and unusual workshops and galleries that inhabit the marginal structures that were never meant to live that long.]

    Having said that:
    - I share the worries about lack of mixed use areas and dangerous “dead zones” around facilities that are only used a small proportion of the day/week. It would be good to get some reassurance that details we haven’t heard yet are going to fill in that apparent gap.
    - In the long run, like 20 years, this will sort itself out. Governments will change, people will come and go, some of the things planned now will never be built, other structures will arise elsewhere. Small consolation, I know.
    - Fucking convention centres – why? WHY? Where does this mania for convention centres come from? At least lots of people like sport, even if I don’t, but convention centres serve a tiny proportion of people a small amount of the time and have pathetic spin offs in employing more low-paid hospo workers.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2906 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Where does this mania for convention centres come from?

    They bring in foreign currency. You can imagine how important that seems to the current mob in charge.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15711 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    The fundamental problem I reckon is that most of the things that make cities neat places to be arise organically over time. In fact, they kind of require controlled decay – old buildings become cheap, run-down, and then new things arise in them and they get repurposed. A wholly new central city can’t have a cheap rundown street like K Road or Cuba or Brunswick in it, it can’t have cheap apartments shoved into unlikely places, in fact it just can’t have cheap and cheerful anything.

    The Christchurch example would be the old High Street with its cool bookshops. It's bloody hard to fit scruffy second-hand bookshops into a big, shiny plan.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17936 posts Report Reply

  • Ed Muzik, in reply to Emma Hart,

    The light rail plan really was a joke - 400 million dollars for one line from the CBD to university, which is currently a lovely, fifteen minute bike through parks. They should be working on putting passengers back on the main rail lines - but no mention of that in this or the transport plan. They'll now argue that the "core" is too far from the railway line.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    the Borrowers...
    at least they're gonna have the Library in the square...
    that gives the locals a reason to be there at last!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4187 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    - Fucking convention centres – why? WHY? Where does this mania for convention centres come from?

    John Key Government.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 5690 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    - Fucking convention centres – why? WHY? Where does this mania for convention centres come from? At least lots of people like sport, even if I don’t, but convention centres serve a tiny proportion of people a small amount of the time and have pathetic spin offs in employing more low-paid hospo workers.

    I'm going to disagree with you here. For all the bad press they've had in the past year, convention centres are infrastructure. If you want events to come to town you need places for them to come to. I can't imagine rebuilding the CBD without rooms, theatres and halls for hire.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17936 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Actually I'm going to disagree that it's hard to plan cheap & scruffy. Obviously I'll have to wander off and find my copy of Hatherley before making any more pronouncements on town planning, but I think you can aim to have cheap, interesting spaces.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1251 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Convention centres are privatised town halls.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1251 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    I'll quote the bit that I updated my earlier comment with, and perhaps thereby buried, because I kind of agree with you:

    in fact what we need is some deliberately crummy, short term buildings like the container mall. Then I predict that by 2030, people will be wringing their hands about how to stop the iron rusting and writing columns celebrating the quirky and unusual workshops and galleries that inhabit the marginal structures that were never meant to live that long.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2906 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Convention centres are privatised town halls.

    Word.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2906 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I mean, we had a plan for the Central City ages go, remember that? The council did it, and then the govt said, we're taking over . . .

    Share an Idea, which many dutifully did. Perhaps some still feel that it was something other than a cynical hoax. Back in January Bob Parker cited Council CEO Tony Marryatt's increased workload from Share an Idea as justification for the pay rise that temporarily riled the punters.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    I think you can aim to have cheap, interesting spaces.

    No $2 shops in Chch's pop-up pathway to Ballantynes. Even Trade Aid is too downmarket.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ed Muzik,

    They'll now argue that the "core" is too far from the railway line

    The plan's lack of nous about transport struck me yesterday. Then I discovered that they aren't addressing that until the next 100 days.

    The exchange is one of the only public transport provisions included in the 100-day blueprint.

    This is because Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee decided to shelve the city council's transport ideas, including ambitious plans for a light rail network, when he set up the CCDU back in April.

    He said at the time a more detailed assessment of the transport options in Christchurch was needed before any decisions were made.

    The CCDU has indicated that it will look more closely at transport in the CBD over the next 100 days of its work programme.

    CCDU director Warwick Isaacs said that now the location of key facilities had been decided, his team could start work on traffic modelling and look at issues such as whether the one-way street system should be retained.

    So, moar cars. I guess I've been spoiled by transit-led development like most of the first world (and its investors) expects these days. Meanwhile here's the City Council-led 30-year draft Transport plan. Who knows if it means anything.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15711 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Croft,

    I reject the idea that light rail is a bad idea. Or at least a long term provision for it.

    $400 million: where does this number come from (yes, I'm aware it's been thrown around) but a rail connection from the airport, through to UC, then to Riccarton, past the hospital (and perhaps the cricket ground), new metro sports hub, then into the bus exchange (one block from the stadium) seems like a good idea. I might be naive but with park and ride (including biking) it could connect the university with the CBD and promote more people living in the CBD, especially if the government / city council promoted more mixed use building in this area and even worked with the university to achieve this.

    I think actually one of the big problems here is a grand design rather than zoning. If the government / city council addressed some zoning issues (of things they would like in certain areas) rather than came out with grand projects this might have allayed some concerns.

    But there's a bit too much of Peter the Great in this for my liking.

    One of my main concerns with these grand ideas is there aren't any people living in this plan.

    Tuscaloosa • Since May 2008 • 18 posts Report Reply

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