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Beaumont Quarter - Auckland

Fast facts

Location: Beaumont Street, Freemans Bay, Auckland

Construction: 2001 - ongoing

Owner: Melview Developments

Design: Dominic Papa, Nicholas Barratt-Boyes, Studio of Pacific Architecture; Boffa Miskell

Case study researcher: Shyrel Burt, Auckland City Council

Key statistics

Dwellings: 240 (terraced and apartment)

Retail: 3100 m² of office space

Site size: 2.4 ha

Gross density: 1:100 m²

Photo: Central pedestrian pathway.

Photo: Terraced houses and historic gaswork buildings.

Photo: Terraced houses with apartment building in background.

Introduction

At the foot of an escarpment overlooking the Waitemata Harbour, the Beaumont Quarter sits across from Victoria Park on a site previously used for a gasworks. The site is close to central Auckland, and the motorway passes nearby.

The architecture of its residential units suggests a modernist reinterpretation of the traditional terraced house. The narrow streets emphasise that pedestrians have priority in the neighbourhood.

Design process

The 2.4 ha site is large for an inner-city site, so the development of a master plan was necessary to organise major structure elements such as pedestrian and motor vehicle connections, and the location and massing of residential buildings. An overall landscape concept was developed to better define the outdoor amenity areas.

Beaumont Quarter has been developed in three stages. The first stage of the master plan provides 12 different housing types, four new apartment buildings, fitness amenities (swimming pool and gym), commercial space, and car parking.

In May 2004, 72 houses in the central area of Stage 1 and 13 houses of Stage 2 were complete and occupied. The terraced houses on the escarpment will be completed in 2005.

Urban design issues

Because it is close to the central city and has good connections to public transport on both Beaumont and Victoria Streets, the Beaumont Quarter is designed for inhabitants who do not want to rely on their car.

Inspired by similar European projects, Beaumont Quarter has been designed with narrow streets giving priority to pedestrians and providing a dense network of pedestrian pathways and small squares.

The master plan aimed to address several principles:

  • integrate and acknowledge the site's unique history in the new development
  • create a distinctive place to both live and work, close to the city and Victoria Park
  • provide a range of innovative housing types
  • allow easy pedestrian access through and around the site.

Creating appropriate density was a priority for planners and architects. Natural light and privacy for the houses was a priority for the designers. Special attention was paid to balancing open and built space and a series of semi-public squares provide a spacious feeling to the site.

Because inner-city land is so expensive, it is rare to get the opportunity to develop such a large site. By offering houses on a leasehold basis, the developers were able to keep the prices down to levels similar to those in the suburbs.

The property is managed by a residents' society made up of the owners. The society manages the body corporates, of which there are currently six, and ultimately approximately 10.

While the buildings on the western slope of the Quarter have extraordinary views of the harbour, they are designed so that the occupants don't feel they are on public show. This concept works for the whole Quarter, creating a dense cluster of buildings that have neighbourhood qualities without sacrificing privacy.

Evaluation - urban design principles

Context

Beaumont Quarter is a classic example of an adaptive re-use of a brownfield site. The site was a former gasworks and incorporates a number of heritage buildings. One main aim for the redevelopment of the site was the restoration of the historic buildings located along the Beaumont Street frontage and the integration of these with newer, more intensive development.

It is a medium-density mixed use development within walking distance of public transport, the CBD, and the inner-city suburb of Ponsonby. The site was large for an inner-city site, and presented a rare opportunity to create a quality urban environment with good connections to the CBD and city fringe.

Character

The Beaumont Quarter is contemporary in its architecture, with a wide variety of house types that are all constructed using high quality materials and finishes.

The retention of a number of mature trees and the refurbishment of some of the gasworks buildings adds a sense of heritage, character and identity to the development.

Choice

This mixed use development offers a great deal of choice in terms of housing types, mode of transportation and lifestyle, although these are all aimed at the high end of the market. Prices have, however, been kept to a reasonable level by the use of leasehold title.

In addition to the residential development, the existing industrial building on the site frontage has been retained and refurbished for offices, and includes a small café. Several houses are designed for home-business with optional offices, and some units could be used for businesses only.

Proximity to the CBD and Victoria Park offers a whole range of 'live-work-play' opportunities. Residents' facilities, including a 16 metre indoor heated swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna and spa, help to provide a sense of community. The small café provides another meeting place for residents.

Connections

The development has excellent pedestrian connections within the site, and is well connected to the CBD and Ponsonby. It is also very close to the Northern Motorway, and to bus routes.

The public spaces within the development are open to the public during daylight hours. The development has two vehicular entrances, but because of its difficult topography the site lacks connections other than on the Beaumont frontage.

Creativity

The developer has used three different architects to design the buildings. This has resulted in a variety of house designs (12 in total). The designs include one bedroom studios, work-from-home terraced houses, and double maisonette houses, plus landscaped squares, pedestrian walkways and communal facilities. The elements are related through the use of unified landscape materials, including lighting and lime chip paths.

The steep eastern side is occupied by the "Cliff Hanger House", a design that deals directly with the special topography to maximise the view towards the city.

The Beaumont Quarter brings to central Auckland a European design philosophy that emphasises pedestrians over vehicles. The environment retains public/private definition while providing high development densities close to the city centre.

Custodianship

In addition to preserving topographic and historic features and mature trees, the removal of contaminated soil on the property is expected to have a beneficial effect on the quality of the groundwater. The conversion of this site from a noxious industrial use to residential is beneficial to residents and the wider city.

Collaboration

The project was a result of a collaborative design approach that included a number of architectural and landscape architectural practices.

Lessons learnt

The open space in the development challenges the public's perception of public open space. The open spaces are grass contained by bunds, challenging the assumption that public open space has to be a place where you can kick a ball around.

The developer and Auckland City Council received some criticism from neighbours and the press regarding the reserve contribution, partly due to the limited access to the public open spaces. The reserve contribution consists of public open space within the development and $1 million payment to the City.

A development of this size and scale has the potential to be quite repetitive and bland, but considerable variety and interest has been achieved by having three different architects working together, to create a variety of building forms.

The challenges of the site, including steep topography, noise, and high land value, have been met creatively without compromising urban design principles.

Value gained

The project has been a market success. Full occupancy has been reached in the office and retail units, and the prices for the residential units have gone up dramatically from initial sales - up to $200,000 more in some instances.

Although the gasworks buildings are not scheduled in the Auckland City District Plan, the developer has placed a covenant on the buildings to ensure their retention.

The first stage of Beaumont Quarter received an architecture award from the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 2003.

Comments

"Feedback from clients is usually very good. They find it a very good community to live in, with lots of lovely outdoor areas to live within. Great for children of all ages, particularly with the open spaces and the pool and gym amenities. They find the houses to be of a very good standard of finish and very good sizes, with great indoor and outdoor living spaces."

- Melview Developments.

Photo: Small gardens of the terraced houses, low-rise apartment building in background.

Photo: View along one of the smaller pathways.