I don’t often write up individual resource consents outside my monthly Local Board reports but there has been enough public interest in the Saffron development at 51-53 Albert Street that I think it justifies its own post.
This application has a long and complex history going back almost ten years. The most recent application was for a breach of the maximum total floor area ratio and also dealt with access by vehicle to the construction site and finished building by car and truck across the legal road part of Saint Patrick’s Square.
In February 2009, land use consent was granted to a previous site owner for the redevelopment of the site to construct a 46-storey residential apartment building including 15 mezzanine levels and 31 levels of residential accommodation under consent reference R/LUC/2006/7101. The building was proposed to accommodate 150 apartments, a café, a through-site link and 95 parking spaces. Separate vehicle entrances and exits were proposed from Albert Street, to provide access to the loading area and eight levels of carpark stacking within the basement. The consent provided for either demolition of the entire building (Option A) or reconstruction and retention of the Albert Street façade and demolition of the remainder of the building (Option B). The application was limited notified and 8 submissions were received. The Auckland City Council (as it then was) granted consent subject to a range of conditions.
The consent was subsequently appealed by two parties related to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. This appeal was withdrawn following the approval of a variation to the consent (R/VCC/2009/1516) which addressed the concerns raised by the appellants regarding noise and geotechnical matters to do with extensive proposed basement excavations by significantly reducing the scale of excavation. Work of the extent originally proposed would have been likely to affect the stability of Saint Patrick & Saint Joseph Cathedral which was seismically strengthened in 2006 at a cost of over $11 million.
A further variation to the original consent was approved on a non-notified basis in 2014 modifying Condition 2, which required the sites at 51-53 Albert Street and 55 Albert Street to be held together for development purposes (consent R/VCC/2006/7101/1). The airspace development rights over number 55 have been transferred to 51-53 which means that 55 will remain at its present height of two storeys.
In July 2013, consent was granted to extend the lapse period of the existing consent by 3 years from 18 February 2014 to 18 February 2017 (R/EXT/2006/7101/1). In August 2013, consent was sought and obtained for the demolition of the existing building only (R/LUC/2013/3468), that consent has now lapsed.
In December 2016, under a new owner, a section 127 RMA application was lodged to vary both the development and demolition consents to confirm that only Option B of the original consent (retention of the Albert Street façade and demolition of the rest of the building) would be pursued. This application was approved in January 2017. The proposal was now part hotel/part apartment and the height was scaled back to 34 storeys. As part of the assessment of that application, Council’s Built Heritage Specialist, Dr Bryan Pooley, raised concerns regarding the proposed removal and re-instatement of the Albert Street façade, and regarding the loss of the St Patrick’s Square façade. These matters were addressed and another variation (R/VCC/2006/7101/3) was granted on 19 April 2017 with conditions changed to ensure the protection of the heritage building. The 51-53 Albert Street frontage – the former Dexter & Crozier building – now has a Heritage B-listing under the unitary Plan.
The application (BUN60308038) was considered by the Duty Commissioner on 2 May 2018. On the advice of the Local Board, they determined full public notification primarily on the basis of the traffic impacts within Saint Patrick’s Square.
The applicant indicated that they would not proceed with that application and submitted a new section 127 RMA variation. The new application was the same as the application previously submitted but proposed the removal of all vehicle access to the site post-construction. The conditions include extensive measures to protect and remediate the part of the square that will be used for construction.
The re-submitted application was approved on a non-notified basis by Duty Commissioner, Dave Serjeant, on 27 June 2018.
I know that there are lingering concerns about how traffic will be managed around the site when it is finished and whether Auckland Transport’s enforcement will be up to snuff to keep traffic created by the building out of the square but this is a much-improved outcome as the developer could have reverted to the earlier consent which did not include protection full retention of the heritage frontages on Albert Street and the Square, was several floors higher, and allowed traffic through the Square.