3

High Density, High Amenity

Auckland is a young city by world standards. Although it consistently scores in the top 10 most liveable cities in the world (number 9 for 2015, according to The Economist) it is suffering some teenage growing pains. It is one of the world’s least affordable cities for housing, with the median house price at just under 10 times the average annual income. In 1989 it was just over four times.

Hobsonville Point's sculptural playground.

Traditionally most Aucklanders have lived in sprawling suburbs on large sites, and relied on cars to move around, in part because the city has failed to provide adequate public transport infrastructure. Hobsonville Land Company set out to create an exemplar development which would provide a blueprint for how Auckland can grow well, increasing its density without compromising on liveability.

 

With the city’s population projected to almost double by 2031, Auckland Council earmarked Hobsonville Point as a ‘Special Housing Area’ allowing section size to fall beneath the stipulated minimum of 300m2. The unknown in 2007 was whether Aucklanders would embrace an average section size of around 240m2 (and 190m2 for a terrace) rather than the 620m2 which was the average citywide.

It was clear that value followed amenity in the heritage suburbs, not just because of proximity to the city, but because these suburbs are satisfying places to live.

The challenge, then, was to create a place that provided everything a community needed to thrive – attractive streets; shops, schools, parks, playgrounds and public transport; jobs, opportunities for small businesses, and intangibles like safe neighbourhoods and a feeling of community spirit. All of this needed to be balanced with the requirement to increase the value of the land to the Crown and deliver homes Aucklanders not only would buy, but could buy – homes that were priced within their means.

A typical 200m2 site still allows for a back yard play area.

Part of the coastal walkway, a 4km looping trail around the site.

Success Strategy: Amenity Delivered Early

Early placemaking initiatives were anchored around three pieces of public amenity. HLC facilitated the establishment of Catalina Café in a repurposed defence force building located at the centre of Buckley precinct, the first precinct to be developed. The café quickly provided a reason to visit the site and interact with others. Hobsonville Point Park’s sculptural playground was placed near the café to provide an attraction for families. Once the café was well established, a farmer’s market was started in a disused storage hangar on the other side of the café. This ‘triangle’ of complimentary amenity provided multiple reasons to visit the site at different times of the week and a focal point around which community activity and a feeling of community spirit could grow.

A total of 26 hectares has been reserved for parks and public space.

Over the last three years this amenity has been added to significantly. Two new public schools – a primary and a secondary school – mean children can complete all of their schooling within the community. A new wharf has been built to facilitate a 35-minute ferry service into the CBD, giving residents an alternative to the motorways at peak.

Hobsonville Point's new primary school.

Although only 15% of the eventual 5,000 homes are built, over 50% of the amenity is in place. This commitment to delivering amenity early has given homebuyers confidence that what is promised will eventuate and they will, indeed, be living in a ‘complete’ suburb. To further build on that confidence, HLC has created an information centre where 3D models, brochures, video and face-to-face conversations with staff help prospective buyers understand and envisage the completed development.

 

Creating amenity early and to a high standard has provided a cornerstone on which to build momentum for house sales. Although the marketing strategy includes retail product advertising, the bulk of the budget goes toward publicising new amenity. By telling Aucklanders there are things to see and do at Hobsonville Point in the weekend, and inviting them to discover a new part of their city, we are building a sense of place. Many of those weekend explorers become residents.

Public Amenities

Complete
• A new wharf and ferry service to deliver commuters into the city
• A new primary school with capacity for 800 students an easy walk from all homes
• A new, 1300-student high school with state-of-the-art facilities
• An information centre
• A street of 11 show homes
• An art trail with 10 pieces of public sculpture, and more to come
• A weekend farmer’s market
• A community café
• Local shops and services such as a convenience store and medical centre
• Hobsonville Point Park and playground
• Bomb Point (Onekiritea) waterfront park.

Planned or Underway
• Te Ara Manawa, a 4km coastal walkway linking all neighbourhoods and green spaces to each other
• A waterfront social hub with restaurants, shops, apartments and office space in a mix of heritage and new buildings
• A sound shell and amphitheatre for outdoor cultural events
• A marae.

A 35-minute ferry service takes commuters to the CBD.

The weekend Farmer's Market draws visitors and locals.

Next week we look at the commercial structure that allows Hobsonville Point deliver high quality homes at an unprecedented rate – one home was completed every working day of last year, a rate which is projected to double for 2016.

 

Follow AVJennings on LinkedIn and find out more about this evolution of this exemplar development.