Shining neon light on the regeneration of midtown

Publish Date : 16 Mar 2023
The Astor Sign In Place Resize Vertical

With City Rail Link the catalyst, midtown is being reborn.

Auckland Council’s city centre programmes team will soon announce the next stage of the Midtown Regeneration programme, a series of projects preparing local streets and public spaces for tens of thousands of people who will pour into the area once City Rail Link’s Te Waihorotiu Station is operational.

One step ahead of the wave of change, new retailers are moving in.   

Iconic music store Real Groovy has set up a large-scale store at 19 Victoria Street West (above Countdown), with owner Chris Hart confident the lift in foot traffic the street is experiencing already is just the beginning.

“It's really obvious to me that midtown is going to be a vibrant precinct in Auckland over the next few years.

"Since we started looking at this part of town six months ago, we've noticed pedestrian traffic has increased and this will only keep increasing as more and more destination businesses move in.

“There's a different feel here now,” says Hart.

Contributing to that ‘different feel’ and helping midtown renew its place as the arts precinct of Auckland, the walls of the new Real Groovy store are adorned with an exhibition of Auckland’s neon art heritage.

Many of the neon signs on display were rescued from demolition sites.

The Plaza Theatre sign – now on the wall above the counter – for example was exchanged for two crates of beer before the classic sign faced the wrecking ball at 232 Queen Street in the 1980s.

Located across Victoria Street from the northern portal of Te Waihorotiu Station, (still under construction), the music enthusiasts who work at Real Groovy can picture their customers arriving by train with a box of old records under one arm and returning with a bundle of new music.

They envisage an effortless commute for their own team as well.

”Being fifty metres from the entrance to the busiest station in the City Rail Link is perfect,” says Hart.  

Looking ahead at the re-energising of midtown

With the renewal of the city centre’s downtown, Wynyard Quarter and Karangahape Road largely delivered, the Auckland Council group is now regenerating midtown.

Over the next 30 years, a million more people will call Tāmaki Makaurau home, and the council teams are hard at work to make our city a place that puts people at its heart – creating a greener, safer and better-connected city centre for everyone. Already a popular place to live, work, study and play, Auckland’s midtown is on the threshold of an exciting future.

With shovels in the ground in 2023, Victoria Street will become a tree-lined avenue called Te Hā Noa with one lane of cars in each direction, a protected cycleway, greater visibility of Māori art and design (more on this here) and wider footpaths with places for people to sit and relax.

These new public spaces, including a renewed design at the northern end of Myers Park (due for completion mid-2023) and a redesigned Queen Street (unveiled November 2022), are becoming our city centre residents’ new backyard. Read more here.

Head of Auckland Council’s City Centre Programmes, Jenny Larking says: “Land is scarce in the city centre, so our streets need to be re-purposed so that they’re no longer just serving traffic movement, but also serving as gathering places.

“People don’t have backyards, so we are creating spaces where they can get together with neighbours and friends and watch the world go by,” Larking explains.

Once new public spaces and improved infrastructure (including underground services) are in place, midtown will be ready to welcome the thousands of people expected to flow in and out of the area daily when Te Waihorotiu Station opens. In just three minutes they'll be able to travel to either the downtown Waitematā Station (Britomart) or Karanga-a-Hape Station (Karangahape) and in just six minutes to Maungawhau/Mount Eden Station.

To learn more about what’s ahead in midtown click here and for a Q&A with Chris Hart click here. For an overview of the city centre transformation, watch here.

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