10 Nov 2012

Buildings may go for train entrance

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Written by: Bernard Orsman
Photo by: Steven McNicholl
Published: The New Zealand Hearld – Friday November 09 2012

Group of historic properties in Victoria St face demolition to allow entry point for inner-city rail loop

The block to the right of the Palace Hotel site is under threat from the wrecking ball. Photo / Steven McNicholl

The loss of the Palace Hotel in central Auckland could be followed by the demolition of an adjoining block of character buildings to create an entrance for the inner city rail loop.

Heritage advocates will be highlighting special protection of the character buildings to argue against the Chow brothers’ application to replace the demolished Palace Hotel with a 15-storey brothel at a hearing next week.

But it now appears the group of old buildings running down Victoria St are also under threat from the wrecking ball.

Auckland Transport has written to tenants saying their properties will be needed for the city rail loop some time from 2015.

One tenant, who did not want to be named, said he was told the buildings were needed for an entrance to a train stations under Albert St between Victoria and Wellesley Sts.

The tenant said he took the letter to mean the buildings were earmarked for demolition.

The project director for the rail project, Claire Stewart, said a lot of work had been done in terms of the heritage and culture associated with Victoria St, saying the station was well underground and the likelihood of demolition of character buildings was not high.

Heritage campaigner Helen Geary said the case was an opportunity for the council to walk the talk in the Auckland Plan to “protect and conserve Auckland’s historic heritage”, like what happened with the central post office at Britomart.

Orakei councillor Mike Lee, an advocate for heritage and the rail loop, said it would be dumb to destroy the character buildings in Victoria St for an entrance to an underground station.

“The plans are very sketchy and there is ample scope to build a railway station without removing these buildings,” he said.

A reason the former Auckland City protected the block of character buildings was their relationship to the 124-year-old heritage Palace Hotel, which the council had to demolish in 2010 after it started to collapse during renovations.

At next week’s hearing before independent commissioners, heritage advocates will oppose the scale of the Chow brothers’ brothel to alleviate the effect on the block of two-storey shops occupied by nine small shops and restaurants. Heritage campaigner Alan Matson will argue for a lower height for the brothel to recognise the character and human scale of the block.

Council planner Jennifer Valentine says in a report to commissioners the loss of the hotel and subsequent replacement building “in my opinion does not detract from these character buildings” and “any actual or potential effects on heritage values are acceptable”.


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