Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Heritage or Hi-Rise

Such a shame...but who's to blame?
The Auckland City Council, in its questionable wisdom before dissolution, gave consent for a developer to bowl one side of Turua Street in St Heliers.
Coming down: seven buildings including three 1935-36 Spanish Mission-style art deco cottages and two 1890s cottages. Going up: a three-level office, shopping and apartment building.
Back in 2007, when the developer first applied, the Turua Street houses were identified in the St Heliers Village Centre Plan as "character-defining". So the application was publicly notified: people who felt affected by the decision could object, and the council had to take their views into account. A year later, the developers appealed in the Environment Court for the "character-defining" identification to be removed. This time, the resource consent was granted on a non-notified basis, meaning the council decided interested parties wouldn't get a say..!
And that's how these things get done: with no recourse except a judicial review (which they could not afford) and a last-ditch fruitless petition to the new ("don't blame us") Auckland Council for a heritage order, supporters were resigned to watch as workers began preparing the buildings for demolition.
But wait! Enter new mayor Len Brown (who stood for the mayoralty on a pro-heritage platform). He's met with the developer and architect about how they could redesign the development to let the three cottages stay. He's also stressed that the developer has a legitimate right to redevelop the land and people should remain realistic about possible outcomes.
PS: 06 Jan.2011 - Uh-oh, looks like the writing's on the wall...
PS: 21 Jan.2011 - An 11th-hour stay of execution...but for how long?
PS: 29 Jan.2011 - The bulldozers won...
Art deco houses are falling like flies and having three together like this was very rare. As more of these buildings are lost, so too is more of the soul of Auckland.

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