Community First

HLC was tasked by the Crown with building and selling 4500 houses but their vision for Hobsonville Point was to build a community. This was an important distinction, and one that attracted AVJennings to the project because it dovetailed neatly with our own philosophy on development.

Contestants in 'The Runway Challenge' fun run at Hobsonville Point.

In 2007 urban design firm, Isthmus, was appointed to begin the process of developing a masterplan which would be built on four key principles:


• Making a place for all Aucklanders to inhabit for generations to come
• Putting people before cars in the design of streets and neighbourhoods
• Connecting streets and open spaces for recreation and access
• Creating a truly mixed development in social and economic terms

Hobsonville Point in its Upper Harbour context. Credit: Isthmus.

Success Strategy: A Design-Led Masterplan

Before Isthmus drew a single line, the company conducted an in-depth enquiry into what makes the kind of place people love to live. They looked closely at some of Australasia’s most loved older suburbs such as Freemans Bay, Ponsonby and Devonport in Auckland, and Balmain in Sydney, and extracted and articulated the characteristics that make them so appealing. They also went further afield, to London, Amsterdam and Vancouver to study best practice in successful new communities internationally.

Early Victorian or Edwardian streets in suburbs like Ponsonby or Balmain are densely built, with compact houses sitting side by side on narrow sections, aligned to the street. The ‘fine grain’ of these suburbs and the close relationship the houses have with the street gives them an intimacy that is reassuringly ‘human’. These were the mass produced houses of a century ago and there is consistency to their style and materials, but not so much consistency that they are bland. There is just enough homogeneity to give the neighbourhood cohesion; enough variety to keep it interesting.


They were also ‘complete’ suburbs in the sense that they provided amenity like shops, churches, pubs and small nature reserves within walking distance. Much of the amenity was situated on a ‘spine road,’ often a major tram route, that ran through the suburb. Typically blocks were oriented at right angles to the main road with side streets intersecting regularly. This layout, in combination with the narrow lots, maximised walkability between the houses and the main road.

The density of suburbs such as Ponsonby informed the masterplan.

Density and amenity concentrated around Ponsonby's spine road.

Isthmus’ indepth research into these communities informed key attributes of the Masterplan framework, including:


• a spine road down the centre of the peninsula
• a traditional street layout and hierarchy
• all houses face the street and positively reinforce the concept of community
• the site history is revealed and reinforced in the design
• a mix of building types in each block creates variety and individuality
• the recreational network is connected to the wider community
• short blocks served by a pedestrian-friendly street network
• integrated public transport to reduce car dependancy
• environmental design solutions for sustainable built outcomes

In our next piece we look at how the high density/high amenity model has shaped Hobsonville Point’s success.

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