Hengyi Pacific, the company planning a 57-level tower in downtown Auckland, has already built two Melbourne super-towers and is well under way with a third. And now it has big plans for its site here. Although many Auckland apartment projects have been cancelled before construction began, Hengyi – one of Australasia’s largest high-rise unit specialists – appears set on going ahead. The $300 million Pacifica project would be New Zealand’s tallest apartment tower. Construction is due to start next month, near Auckland’s waterfront.
Dean Fossey, a Hengyi Pacific director who is based in Melbourne but comes to Auckland every fortnight or so, this month showed what the company has done across the Tasman, and revealed more detail of its Auckland plans. “By March next year you’ll be starting to see the structure rising,” he said. Features of Hengyi’s two existing Melbourne towers give an indication of some of the elements planned for the Auckland boutique hotel/apartment tower, on a site between Commerce St and Gore St, a block from the waterfront in the Britomart area.
Hengyi’s first Melbourne project was The William, an office block conversion of two adjacent buildings – a 23-storey tower on William St and a 21-storey building in Little Bourke St. That has an outdoor pool and a hotel. That was followed by the Light House project on Elizabeth St in the Melbourne CBD. The newly opened 69-level, 607-apartment tower is distinctive for its colour and angular floor plates. It has almost a Rubik’s Cube look, all angles, colours and jutting points, making it stand out strongly on the city skyline. Melbourne developers are not afraid of colour – a big difference to Auckland. Elenberg Fraser were the architects and Multiplex Constructions built it.
And Hengyi is now working on Swanston Central, designed by the same architect, a 72-level, 1039-apartment project nearby at 168 Victoria St in Melbourne’s Carlton neighbourhood. In fact, level 69 of Light House provides a bird’s eye view of Multiplex’s progress on Swanston Central. On the ground floor of his offices on Collins St in Melbourne’s CBD, Fossey has models of The William and Swanston Central. Also based in that office is Hengyi chairwoman and founder Min Wang, originally from China, and director Lu Xing, also originally from China but in Melbourne for more than 20 years. Both had returned this month from a trip to Tibet, where they visited temples and viewed Mt Everest, said Xing, sporting Tibetan wrist beads.
Aged in her late 40s, Wang is said to be a billionaire as a result of developing buildings in China. Her CV shows she has an MBA from Beijing University. Her partner, Liang Chen, is Hengyi president but while she lives in Australia, he remains in China. Hengyi is affiliated with mainland Chinese developer Shandong Hengyi. Other Hengyi Pacific directors are Jeff Wang, Fossey and Hengyi’s boss on the ground in New Zealand, Liz Scott, who is the company’s general manager (NZ). Simon Manley is Hengyi’s development manager.
Fossey said car parking efficiencies were one of the features planned for the big Auckland tower. “We don’t dig a lot of holes,” he said, pointing to just two basement levels at The William and two at Swanston Central. “We’re not big on basement digging.” Stacking systems maximised car parking: at the newly opened Light House, there are just 158 parking spaces over seven levels. “This is how we get away from digging a hole.” Two car parking lifts are planned for The Pacifica, with robotic-style car stackers. Residents will drive into a dock, leaving their vehicle on a turntable. The car will then be remotely moved into place. Fossey said Hengyi had examined high-tech car parking systems in Germany and Singapore. “We just use the [car] lift like a passenger lift. Car dependency in Melbourne has diminished.”
In Auckland, ground works for the project will involve boring for piles and pouring concrete for the foundation. The skyscraper itself will be built of concrete – in contrast to the steel-framed Commercial Bay project, now rising nearby – with a double-glazed glass curtain wall. Exterior balconies will be on the lower levels. “Light House has balconies up to about level 40 but it’s not possible above that. It’s a decision we make project-by-project,” Fossey said. The now-rising Swanston Central will have exterior balconies up to about level 24, he said. “But Pacifica will be on a site more exposed to the water than the Melbourne projects are,” Fossey said. Hengyi’s Melbourne projects are far from the city’s tallest. For example, Multiplex is building Australia 108 in the city’s Southbank area, a residential tower that will be 319m tall, not far short of Auckland’s 328m Sky Tower. That Melbourne super-tower is due to open in 2020, and will have 1105 apartments on 100 levels, says Multiplex. Fossey said Aucklanders had welcomed Hengyi’s arrival and were “more welcoming than Sydney or Brisbane”, where the developer has also looked for work. “Going into Auckland, people are interested in what we’re doing, trying to understand it.”
But will the huge Pacifica project flood the market for apartments? In a study, Colliers International found 1391 new apartment units – including those at Pacifica – in the CBD, 961 on the city fringe and 1443 in suburban areas. Half the units are under construction, but building has not started on the other half. Pete Evans, Colliers’ residential project marketing national director, said next year would see the highest number of Auckland apartments completed in more than a decade – but not enough to meet demand, and only a year’s supply. “In major cities with population growth, we would expect supply to be anywhere between 12 to 24 months. Most apartment projects take two to three years to build, so the current under supply will remain in the foreseeable future,” said Evans. “Auckland’s population growth, and banks restricting funding, is not assisting the needed supply of new apartments.”
The Government has approved a $300 million, 600-home development at a Christchurch racecourse.
Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said building could start at Riccarton Racecourse after Cabinet removed the land’s reserve status on Monday.
The land, situated around the outside of the race track, will be developed by the Christchurch Racecourse Reserve Trustees and Ngai Tahu Property.
Parliament passed legislation to hasten the development last June.
Smith said freeing up the land would increase the housing supply and provide a financial boost for the Canterbury racing industry.
“The key to improving affordability is increasing supply and this development will do that while helping first home buyers into a new, high-quality homes,” he said.
“This development, alongside those at Awatea, and Colombo and Welles streets, is the final phase of the Government’s housing response to the Canterbury earthquakes.”
Smith said Government interventions in house planning and supply since the earthquakes made Canterbury one of the most affordable regions in the country.
“It provides a model of how we can resolve issues in other centres and a competitive advantage for the Canterbury region in attracting new industry and people.”
Jaw-dropping concepts for an iconic new national stadium have been pitched to Auckland Council, proposing a state-of-the-art arena be submerged into the city’s waterfront. A portfolio of spectacular designs can be revealed from documents delivered to the office of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff last month. The Herald on Sunday has obtained them through the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act [LGOIMA].
Dubbed The Crater, the idea centres on a subterranean multi-events venue, inverting conventional design by building below ground rather than above. Created by Auckland design and marketing figure Phil O’Reilly, three potentials factor in a core concept of a sunken bowl-type arena, as well as renderings of a roofed version. A third concept incorporates new cruise ship terminals that would flank the facility, although O’Reilly said the general idea could also work inland if the waterfront was dumped as a location.
Communications through Goff’s office, released through the LGOIMA, show O’Reilly submitted the artist impressions to the office of the Mayor on March 15, accompanied by a written proposal. O’Reilly said as far as he is aware, the submerged venue would be the first of its kind anywhere in the world and was a chance for Auckland to build an iconic landmark that would be recognised the world over – but in keeping with Auckland’s natural volcanic landscape. “We always do something derivative that is quite cool but not quite up to it. This is an opportunity to do something that is truly unique,” O’Reilly said.
Although not as large in scale, likely between 30,000-50,000 capacity, O’Reilly said a truly cutting-edge design could see the Kiwi venue punch way above its weight and become as recognised as some of the most famous on Earth. “You’ve got to think outside the box. Why not put it into the harbour?” O’Reilly said his ideas have not been formally costed, but conversations with industry experts have him adamant that digging down is cheaper than building up. “From my discussions, because there is no need to build an above-ground structure, there are no architectural issues – or costs associated to that,” he said. “It would be cheaper to significantly cheaper, and Aucklanders would love that.”
The safety of a stadium sunk into open water is also an obvious concern. But O’Reilly was confident rising sea levels as well as natural disasters could be handled. “I would always compare other infrastructure, particularly like Britomart, that’s a great example that has tens of thousands of people going through it each week and is below sea level,” he said. O’Reilly he’d had no word back from Goff’s office beyond an “automatic reply” to his email.
Communications released under LGOIMA show Goff’s office forwarded O’Reilly’s pitch to Council’s venues arm, Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), whose chief executive Chris Brooks responded, acknowledging receipt. An initial study has been commissioned by RFA to examine whether Eden Park should be replaced by a new stadium somewhere in downtown Auckland. An RFA spokesman said that report, which is being prepared by global accounting and advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, “should be through to the mayor sometime within in the next 5-6 weeks”.
When asked for comment on The Crater, RFA said it won’t be considering any specific stadium designs or concepts until a strategy is settled. “As we have previously announced, RFA has engaged professional advisers to work with it on a pre-feasibility study to determine the viability of establishing a purpose-built National Football Stadium (NFS) located in the central city,” a spokesman said.
“The pre-feasibility will determine the viability of central city locations and business scope for a potential stadium.” Goff has previously said Auckland could not afford a white elephant, adding the 50,000-seat Eden Park was limited to 21 night events and could need another $250 million spent on it over the next 15 years.
In March last year, rich-lister and Vodafone Warriors owner Eric Watson pledged to invest in a new stadium for downtown Auckland, believing there were “benefits for Auckland”. Watson also revealed he had already approached other potential investors. Talking to the Herald on Sunday, Watson welcomed O’Reilly’s crater concept, as he eagerly awaits the upcoming PwC report. “I understand the PwC Feasibility Study is not far off but in the meantime it’s great to see options for how a waterfront stadium could work,” Watson said. He said he would support a location that “stacks up financially and is ‘the best option’ in terms of a range of factors”.
That included transport and parking options, commercial opportunities, multi-use options of the venue and “visual appearance”. “Ultimately the location and design that ticks as many boxes and meet as many needs as possible will ultimately be the best option for the city. It will be interesting to see what the PwC Feasibility Study recommends.”
Christchurch’s new convention centre could pull in $400 million in its first eight years, its developer says. Crown development company Otakaro Limited released new information and design images of the project on last week. “We want to create an attractive facility for Christchurch, that draws people towards the centre and its associated cafes and shops,” Otakaro chief executive Albert Brantley said.
The design allows the Christchurch Convention Centre to host events with up to 2000 people. It will include a 1400-delegate auditorium, a 3600-square metre exhibition hall, and 1600sqm of meeting rooms overlooking Victoria Square. “Estimates put the direct economic benefit of the convention centre to the Canterbury region at $300m to $400m in its first eight years of operation,” Brantley said.
Christchurch and Canterbury Convention Bureau (CCCB) manager Caroline Blanchfield said Christchurch had just 9 per cent of the national conference market, and attracted very few conferences from Australia. Before the old conference centre was damaged in the February 2011 earthquake, Christchurch had 24 per cent of New Zealand’s conference market and 42 per cent of the conferences that came from Australia.
Blanchfield said international organisations had approached her about coming to the city, but would not do so without a fully-equipped conference centre. “We have unmet demand for conferencing in Christchurch.” The new centre is due for completion in 2019, and Blanchfield said Christchurch was already bidding for conferences from mid-2020 onwards. “It’s vitally important that it stays on schedule from now on. We don’t want to lose another year’s opportunity,” she said.
The Government originally planned to finish the centre in 2017, and it missed out on its first contract for a conference in 2018 due to fears it would not be finished in time. Blanchfield said international convention delegates spent twice as much as other international visitors, often extended their visit to other parts of the South Island, and were likely to return for holidays.
Brantley said Woods Bagot architects and Matapopore Charitable Trust designed the building to reflect the South Island landscape. The main entrance, featuring curves reminiscent of Canterbury braided rivers, will open to Oxford Terrace and the Avon River. The Armagh St and Colombo St sides are straighter, holding to the traditional edges of Victoria Square and Cathedral Square, and the restored Lady Isaac building. The plan incorporates hospitality and retail outlets into the Colombo St side of the centre, and space has been set aside for a potential hotel. The Armagh St side will include areas for public use with a view of Victoria Square.
Earthworks on the site are well under way and a main works contractor is expected to be appointed about July. Archaeologists have found “bear grease” hair product, children’s cutlery, and 1840’s pharmaceuticals among other artifacts at the site. “A lot of the stuff we’re finding at the convention centre is relatively early for Christchurch,” Underground Overground Archaeology’s Jessie Garland said. The artifacts were found among cellar walls, a well, and rubbish pits dating back to the mid-19th Century. Garland said archaeological works would not delay earthworks for the convention centre.
The construction boom is seeing an unprecedented number of cranes rise across New Zealand’s cities, according to research released today. The Q2 2017 RLB Crane Index revealed a record 132 cranes towering over New Zealand’s cities, with Auckland alone accounting for 72.
“In Auckland, in particular, strong economic growth driven by high inward migration and increasing tourist numbers, along with solid housing activity, manufacturing and consumer spending, has seen the rock star economy continuing to drive the construction industry, where demand is stretching the current supply,” said Chris Haines, Rider Levett Bucknall’s Auckland Director.
“Auckland continues to dominate New Zealand skies with 72 long-term cranes, 55 per cent of all cranes observed across the seven key centres,” Haines said. “The current index highlights a 13 per cent increase in the number of cranes within the Auckland region since the last count in Q4 2016. Twenty-three new cranes have been erected and 15 have been removed from projects that are nearing completion.” Construction work put in place increased by 20 per cent in the 2016 calendar year, making it the fifth consecutive year of growth.
A motorway from Auckland to Whangarei has been flagged by Transport Minister Simon Bridges. Speaking at today’s sod turning to mark the start of the $709.5 million Puhoi to Warkworth motorway, Bridges said over time the motorway would extend to Whangarei, a distance of 162km.
Prime Minister John Key and Bridges turned the first sod during a tour of roading projects north of Auckland, including a new roundabout in the township of Waimaukau. Bridges said the Government had pledged to build a four-lane road of national significance from Puhoi to Wellsford and the entire corridor to Whangarei was very important.
“A lot of people talk about the Brynderwyns and the need for a very strong solution there. “You have got Northport up closer to Whangarei, which is again justification for doing a much more significant job all the way. “Whether that’s to road of national significance standard or something different to that I couldn’t say at the moment … but as Transport Minister I’m very attracted to progress more significant road improvements, not just through to Wellsford but up to Whangarei,” Bridges said.
He said realistically it was not five or six years away, but probably a decade of more away. New Zealand Transport Agency chairman Chris Moller said the agency was looking at the Whangarei to Auckland connection but a motorway could be 30 years away. The Puhoi to Warkworth motorway extends 18.5km over difficult terrain from the Johnstone Hills tunnels just south of Puhoi to just north of Warkworth.
Critics have nicknamed it the “holiday highway” to the intense annoyance of Northland leaders. The new motorway will have two lanes in each direction divided by a central median with a safety barrier. Both Bridges and Rodney MP Mark Mitchell stressed the safety benefits of the new motorway. Said Mitchell: “Safety is definitely a No 1 concern. Unfortunately the piece of road we have to use at the moment comes with hazards and we have too many serious injuries and fatal accidents on that piece of road.”
The project is the second public private partnership (PPP) for a state highway, after the Transmission Gully motorway in Wellington. Under the latest PPP, the Northern Express Group will finance, design, construct, manage and maintain the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway for the 25 years following a five-year build. The motorway is due for completion in 2021. Incentives built into the contract will ensure the motorway is one of the safest in New Zealand with lower grades and be more resilient to natural disasters and road closures.
Bridges said a decision had not been made on whether to toll the new Puhoi to Warkworth motorway. Route protection of the next stage of the motorway from Warkworth to Wellsford is underway. The NZ Transport Agency is planning to release an indicative route early next year. The Automobile Association is delighted that construction is officially underway on the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway extension. “Many people from outside Northland don’t understand what a vital step forward this is for us,” AA Northland District Chairman Steve Westgate said. “It’s not just about safer, quicker and more reliable journeys, it’s about the economic opportunities that come with it. This project will improve our connections with Auckland, New Zealand and the world.”