People are the ‘gold’ of the Golden Mile

Talk Wellington reader Amos, encouraging everyone who has anything to do with Wellington City to put in a Golden Mile submission this weekend – and sharing his!

Kia ora tātou, I’m Amos Mann, Pākehā Jewish, residing in Paekākāriki, Kapiti, and working in Wellington CBD. It’s really important to have your say on the Golden Mile consultation. The submission window closes August 9th, this Sunday, so be quick!

It’s not hard to do; Talk Wellington has a great submission guide page, which is what inspired me!  

Other great guides are Generation Zero’s, with quick-submit and richer feedback options. Living Streets Aotearoa also has a comprehensive take here.

For what it’s worth, here’s my submission – feel free to pick-up on any of the ideas or phrases I’ve used in mine.

My submission on the Golden Mile consultation

Tēnā koutou Let’s Get Wellington Moving,

I am a daily user of the Golden Mile. The outcome of this planning process and resulting changes will affect me personally and my capacity to be a productive member of Wellington and New Zealand society.

The Option offering the most benefit to Wellington people and their built environment is Option 3.

It is the only Option with bike lanes and that prioritises public transportation flow. Because this is a main artery for public transport from the suburbs, and the wider region, to the CBD and train station/bus hub, public transportation flow in the Golden Mile is vital for public transportation flow across the city and region.

As a some-times car user, I am strongly supportive of removing or reducing personal car travel through the Golden Mile – there is no need for me to drive through this zone to get where I need to go, and it’s currently extremely unlikely I would find a park anywhere near where I want to go in this area, so I never try to find one there. As well, I find I jostle for position with buses, this is challenging and often leads to dangerous decision making, whether to overtake or wait for a bus that is stopped. As a driver, I wish that the design of traffic flow would not lead me through this area.

Inspiration from Antwerp, from the excellent Urb-i before/after series – highly recommended

Make “Transform” really transformational

However, improvement is needed on Option 3.

Greater emphasis is needed on the creation of cool, fun, dynamic public spaces, spaces that facilitate increased public encounters and social gatherings and the general desirability of being in this neighbourhood.

It’s these ‘third places‘ that, in the past, transformed Wellington into a notable city [think the waterfront and Cuba Mall] and are needed now more than ever to build on our reputation as the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ and become, simply, one of the coolest little cities in the world – capital or not.

Desirable places to be have lots of different things for all kinds of people to do, which the Project for Public Spaces summarises as “the power of 10+”. Some of the activities that great Golden Mile third spaces could be designed for include:

  • Places to sit and eat your lunch, sheltered from prevailing winds
  • Conversation nooks and meeting places for office workers to ‘get outside’ and hold their meetings in the sun [on days that “you can’t beat Wellington on”]
  • Climbing wall and other low impact fun challenges such as pull-up bars, and vestibular challenges, such as a low beam, for office workers to get out and exercise with on a 10min break, or longer stretch
  • Yoga and meditation garden
  • Mental Wellbeing garden
  • Simple small powered and lit stage area for lunchtime and early evening music performances
  • Sculpture garden
  • Community vegetable garden and orchid
  • Craft market
  • Edible orchids
  • Iwi created spaces

Integrating design for these kind of activities, and similar, will increase the social vibrancy, and will in-turn amplify the vibrancy and desirability of the retail businesses, leased office spaces, and living spaces along the Golden Mile. 

This amplification effect on the desirability of the Golden Mile is needed now more than ever.

A whisper dish, this one in Taranaki. Catherine Groenestein|Stuff

A home away from home – for work?

Thanks to COVID-19 Lockdown, we have discovered that Working From Home (WFH) has a competitive edge over the commute into a CBD. We’re saved dealing with the traffic and traffic noise and pollution. We don’t have to jostle amongst limited public space for pedestrians. The suburbs (and the home kitchen) are always cheaper than cafe food and mark-ups CBD retailers offer. And depending on your home, WFH can be a lot nicer than open plan offices without windows that open on the 5th floor, with limited direct sunlight.

There is a real risk that, going forward, a distributed workforce will mean that we permanently lose the critical mass of CBD workers that make the Golden Mile ‘golden’ i.e. profitable. As Catrina Williams observed, “… take a stroll down this part of the Golden Mile and at least half a dozen shops sit empty. Others remain closed… getting workers back into the city [is] crucial.”

To save the Golden Mile, design solutions must compete with the attractiveness of working from home.

There are two ways to compete:

  • First, make the Golden Mile neighbourhoods so vibrant, so attractive, so open to possibility and chance meetings, and networking, and serendipity, that the benefits of coming to work, and the benefits of your workplace being in that neighbourhood, far outweigh the benefits of staying home;
  • and second, make the Golden Mile neighbourhoods a home.

Already, many of the office towers in this neighbourhood have been converted into dwellings, an increase in the proportion that are dwellings is very likely to rise, even if we can design to reduce the exodus of office leasers.

Stuff for people to do – day and night

Diversification of activity in the area, both in the type and the timing of activities, will help mitigate the negative impacts on retail and commercial rental likely to continue to be felt if otherwise no design solution is applied to this problem.

We need spaces that are designed to support a wider range of activities, morning, day, and night.

As workplaces become more family friendly and more children and babies come into the CBD (which should really be thought of as a “city centre”, not just “a central business district”), a diversification of needs and dynamics of small social inter-generational groups must be designed for.

It’s people that are the ‘gold’ of the Golden Mile, and so the design must be a design for people, not for cars, not for businesses, not for retailers, not for property speculators. People first. With a design for people, a critical mass will return, which in turn will lead to benefits for businesses, retailers, and property speculators. Not the other way round. 

Here are some examples, that I have personally experienced, of some of the kinds of spaces that can transform a CBD neighbourhood into a vibrant, attractive, and profitable ‘people first’ place.

Ngā mihi
Nā, Amos Mann

Submissions – go go go by 5pm Sunday!

Banner Image credit: Paris En Commun

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