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Heritage facades to stay at Saffron development

Published: 2 August 2018

It’s a decade since plans were announced for Albert Street’s Saffron development.

Over that time various proposals have been put forward, and the site has changed hands. The most recent applications centred on the floor area and vehicle access across neighbouring St Patrick's Square.

Waitematā Local Board member Vernon Tava tracks the ward’s consent applications and says what is now proposed is better than it could have been.

"There are some concerns still, but it is an improved outcome because the developer could have reverted to an earlier consent that didn't include keeping heritage frontages on Albert Street and the square, was higher, and allowed traffic in the square."

Consent for a 46-storey apartment block was granted in 2009. A café, 150 apartments, a through-site link and 95 parking spaces were allowed, and vehicle entrances and exits in Albert Street were proposed.

That consent provided for demolition of the existing building, or reconstruction and retention of the Albert Street façade. The application was on a limited basis and the then Auckland City Council granted it subject to conditions.

A subsequent appeal by parties linked to St Patrick’s Cathedral was withdrawn after a variation addressed concerns about noise and geotechnical matters by reducing the scale of basement excavations.

"Work to the extent originally proposed would have affected the stability of the cathedral, which was seismically strengthened in 2006 at a cost of more than $11 million,” Tava says.

A further variation was later approved, transferring air development rights from 55 Albert Street to 51–53 - effectively limiting 55 Albert Street to its present two storeys.

In 2013 the consent was extended to 2017 and consent was later obtained to demolish the building, though that consent eventually lapsed.

In December 2016, under new owners, a Resource Management Act application confirmed only retaining the Albert St façade and demolishing the rest of the building would be pursued. Approval was given in January - the project now a 34-storey hotel and apartment complex.

As part of the assessment, Auckland Council Built Heritage Specialist Dr Bryan Pooley raised concerns about the proposed removal and reinstatement of the Albert St façade and the loss of the St Patrick’s Square façade. Another variation was granted, ensuring both were saved.

"The Waitematā Local Board called for full public notification because of the traffic impacts within St Patrick’s Square,” Tava says.

"The applicant subsequently submitted a variation that removed all vehicle access to the site post-construction. Conditions include extensive measures to protect and remediate the part of the Square to be used during building."

That application was approved in June.