Five-level $120m development plan for Ponsonby Rd site with apartments, retail and office

A new $120 million office/retail/residential development is planned for Ponsonby Rd where architecturally designed apartments could go for more than $10 million each.

Kelly McEwan, development director of Urban Collective, said The Pompallier was planned for a corner site at 286-304 Ponsonby Rd but consent is yet to be granted.

The site is at the northern end of the strip between Cowan St and Pompallier Tce near the Jervois Rd/College Hill Rd intersection.

But the plans also involve work in and around heritage scheduled buildings and a five-level height-exceeding block on the Ponsonby Rd/Pompallier Tce corner.

The site has three street frontages: Ponsonby Rd opposite Renall St, Pompallier Tce and Cowan St.

Architect Jeff Fearon, when asked if the project was facadism, said: “We certainly don’t think so because we’re maintaining most of the heritage building on the corner of Ponsonby Rd and Cowan St.

“The spaces we’re creating in and around those heritage structures use the volume and existing internal partitions of the original buildings, specifically maintaining the details of the service structures that sit behind the Ponsonby Rd frontage,” Fearon said.

Those include lean-to buildings which are almost completely intact with few modifications, he said.

“To be able to take the new structures behind and above the existing buildings, some demolition is needed. But the majority of the key heritage aspects of the structures are being maintained and integrated into the new development,” Fearon said.

A 1910 Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection photo from the Ponsonby Rd/Cowan St intersection shows the scheduled shops as the Boys and Men’s Outfitter premises.

Five to seven shops and restaurants are planned for the ground floor, 1664sq m of offices including for Ray White for level one and 14 apartments above that, McEwan said.

“Some of those apartments will be around $10m or more because they’ll be tailor-made, very high-end products with incredible views, for people selling a big family home in Herne Bay or the divorcee or single person wanting just one bedroom but [a large place],” McEwan said today.

Plans by Fearon Hay Architects and Paul Brown Architects show the strip of existing heritage buildings on Ponsonby Rd are to be incorporated into the new scheme which will rise behind.

Some architectural specialists like Allan Matson have criticised the incorporation of heritage buildings into new developments. They say that smacks of facadism, not honouring either the old or the new.

A heritage impact assessment by Plan Heritage on the Urban Collective plans said: “There is potential for adverse effects to occur which are minor and permanent in nature due to modification of the Category B scheduled historic heritage place at 286-292 Ponsonby Rd and in changes to the setting of nearby character-defining and character supporting buildings in the special character areas overlay.”

An Urban Collective spokesperson said: “The heritage intention is beyond wanting to protect but to embrace, retain, restore and enhance the existing heritage building.”

Resource consent has gone to Auckland Council but not yet been granted. McEwan said that was for stage one of the plan, resulting in the $120m scheme, but a second stage is also planned, although he was reluctant to talk about that now.

A public laneway is proposed to connect Ponsonby Rd with Cowan St and Pompallier Tce.

Gower Buchanan of Ray White Damerell Group said that the business had leased offices for up to 100 staff and for its auction rooms.

An urban design assessment by Lisa Mein of Design + Planning said plans for the five-level building on the Ponsonby Rd/Pompallier Tce corner exceeded the maximum height. But the site had good access to public transport, schools and was highly visible and accessible.

“The proposed development offers a high-quality built form response to the site that will reinforce the character of Ponsonby while creating a new landmark in this location,” Mein wrote.

Plans retain and enhance the scheduled character history buildings and maintain features and use.

“The addition, while contemporary, has been designed to be subservient to the heritage features,” the urban assessment said.

John Elliott, a local who founded Ponsonby News, said: “It’s a monstrosity, really. This will be a very imposing building on the corner of a heritage town centre, diluting Ponsonby’s heritage aesthetic. It is an ugly, oversize, out of place development.”

Project assessment documents had hollow words, he said.

“Nice words like ‘contributes to the public realm’, are meaningless verbiage. These kinds of developments are ensuring that the world’s most liveable city is disappearing. Population intensification I support, but it has its limits and Auckland may be close to saturation, or valued amenity values will be lost. Anyway, this development won’t help solve the affordable housing crisis – not at $5m to $10m for a penthouse unit,” Elliott said.

The Herald published an article on the sale of the property in a commercial section two years ago.

That said the sites were 284-292 and 294-306 Ponsonby Rd and 1-3 Cowan St:

• 1-3 Cowan St is a two-level commercial building, The Pompallier Centre, built in the 1980s with an A-grade seismic rating and 1091sq m of office and retail space.

• 286-292 Ponsonby Rd adjoins the Cowan St property and is a two-level 1920s character building with heritage architectural features typical of that era. It occupies a 731sq m site with eight rear car parks and has a corner profile to Ponsonby Rd and Cowan St.

• 296-306 Ponsonby Rd, the northernmost title on a 1135sq m site and a corner profile to Pompallier Tce, a single-level commercial building of 666sq m predominately tenanted by retail and hospitality operators, with16 car parks.

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