Over recent years, Wynyard Quarter has taken its place as a pre-eminent commercial development location in Auckland. The early development of North Wharf and the ASB building were bolstered by Precinct Properties winning the right to develop the Innovation Precinct, which led to the restoration of Mason Brothers and the creation of 10 Madden Street.
These coincided with Goodman developments and Fonterra, Datacom and IBM creating – and moving into –new facilities of their own.
Many subsequent hospitality, retail, residential, and soon-to-open hotel and open space developments have only served to build momentum, attracting more people, occupiers, owners and investors to the dynamic precinct.
These include Infratil, which has been working to develop its 18,000sqm landholding in the precinct.
Infratil is best known for investing principally in energy, transport and social infrastructure sectors, so why is it developing hotels and commercial office space in Wynyard Quarter?
Love Your Workspace talked to Andrew Lamb, Infratil’s General Manager - Development, to find out what they are up to, and how their plans are coming along:
Wynyard 100 vision
Lamb says that catalysts such as the planning changes, Council’s investment into Wynyard Quarter, and changes in the lease structure with long-term Wynyard Quarter resident NZ Bus required a review of the holding. Infratil continues to apply its philosophy of optimising operating benefits to its businesses, achieving the highest and best use outcomes for its assets, and delivering the best financial results and performance for investors from its portfolio.
“NZ Bus will continue to operate in its current location as a central hub, and Infratil will access parts of the site for future development,” he says. “This required a master planning exercise for the whole site under a new Integrated Development Plan (IDP). Our vision is to create a fully integrated mixed-use development that builds on the work in the area by Precinct, Goodman and many others. We call this development Wynyard 100.
“The first stages of our plan comprise circa 30,000sqm of GFA located on the Halsey St frontage, with a further 50,000sqm of future development as part of an IDP. Stage 1 will incorporate a 154-room Travelodge hotel, a 385-space car park building, offices, retail and hospitality activities under a single, coherent plan.
“Our IDP sets the masterplan with Council, setting out laneways and basic platforms, and secures the development areas. We can build 81,000sqm of commercial space, plus other activities including retail, food and beverage and hospitality.”
This will happen initially via three core buildings, a hotel and two office buildings, which Infratil views as a unit in this premier and historical location, he says. “We have done a lot of work with Peddle Thorpe to understand what the buildings mean to the area and to develop a clear understanding as to how they will contribute to the location’s future.
“Our vision is to build on the quality of Wynyard Quarter to date, and take our buildings to the next level. To do that, they each have to tell a story with their own unique identity, and they have to relate to activities here.”
Travelodge well underway for completion in 2020
Under the plan, Building 1 will be the 154-room Travelodge hotel, which is under construction and on track for completion in June 2020.
The project involved quite a bit of research into what was required for hotels in the area, says Lamb. “The area is well serviced by 5-star-plus hotels, but there is a lack of 3.5-4.5-star quality offerings.
However, with changes in the way hotels are operating and being viewed, thanks in part to technology, we felt comfortable that a 4-star hotel would be well received.
“In our view, the Star rating system is starting to lose its place. Modern hotel facilities focus more on providing highly designed rooms where you can lay your head down rather than offering a dedicated restaurant, gym or pool. This is because when you have an area as popular with restaurants as Wynyard Quarter, do you really need to provide another hotel restaurant? Also, when you can get five-star quality food delivered to your room by Uber Eats, ordered through the hotel and charged back to your room, it defeats the requirements for having a full restaurant downstairs.”
Lamb adds that as the hotel build continues, he is focused on the food & beverage and convenience retail offerings. “There is a lack of convenience retail in the area. We have 2,200 sqm of ground floor space, which NZ Bus will occupy part of for their new offices, and the balance dedicated to a mixed retail and hospitality offering. When this happens, we can tear down their old offices, which will free up our opportunities to create the next buildings.”
Next stage: buildings 2 and 3
Lamb says that Infratil is now ‘looking hard’ at the next two - as-yet unbranded - commercial buildings. The first, Building 2, will be a multi-level, circa 9,500sqm A Grade office building constructed from timber, which Lamb describes as ‘an ode to the industrial heritage of Wynyard Quarter’.
“When we looked at Building 2, we asked ourselves how we could define something differently. Built in an area known once as the Log Farm, a place where Totara and Kauri logs were once towed from the north and milled, we felt that a timber building would bring heritage and character into the building and position it uniquely.
“Some of the most beautiful office buildings being created around the world at the moment are timber buildings. They offer character space in modern structures, creating a lovely social environment for users - a unique and sustainable work environment that people enjoy. The building will provide an inviting, character-filled open plan environment with a good natural light and extremely strong sustainability credentials.”
The design of the adjoining, 9,080sqm Building 3 grew out of a similarly raw and history-based thought process, he says. “We looked at the building as an ode to Admiral Lionel Halsey, and to the maritime heritage of the area.
Halsey Street was named after the WW1 captain of the HMS New Zealand, Lionel Halsey. He was gifted a piupiu, a traditional Māori war skirt, by a Māori chief, and he used to wear it into battle. The area also used to be where all the boats came in, and we still have functioning marine activities in Wynyard Quarter, so we thought it would be great to design a building that has a feel like an old shipyard with big steel frames.
“We wanted to create something raw and unique, showing the steel framing. Then we took the design philosophy to cloak the building by using modern glass technology.
So, when you look into the building from outside, you’ll get a sense of seeing the structure; an open and clear building with a very high atrium the full height of the building, showing strong structural intent while providing a modern and open work environment.”
Place-setting for Wynyard Quarter’s growth
Lamb says that 7 days per week retail and activation is a game changer at Wynyard Quarter.“A lot of what we need to do for the city is place-set. When a tenant or occupiers come into the area, they want amenities for their staff: amenities become vital. Wynyard Quarter is becoming a great example of a successful mixed-use development in a rapidly developing city enabled by infrastructure investment.
“Some cities die at night or weekends, so we are telling our retail tenants you should be there seven days a week. Once upon a time Wynyard Quarter wouldn’t have sustained that, but Willis Bond and Fu Wah’s residential developments, and the Council-led public spaces are now creating an active and living community here.”
He says that this has been an immensely satisfying process to date. “I have really enjoyed the place setting work; taking an area, creating a vision and trying to deliver on it. I have loved the opportunity to try to help influence how great urban design comes into the city, including through my work with the Urban Design Panel. I am a staunch believer in Auckland – and that our city deserves a really fantastic built environment, to make us a great international city.
“To me, Wynyard Quarter is superbly placed. We have seen the quality of what has been developed here, and our approach is to raise the bar further each time. The area has been accepted by the marketplace and is now a premier location. It has really picked up a strong impetus, and if we continue along this path, then Wynyard Quarter will naturally become the place of choice.”
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