Hotel design to be revamped

Details of the agreement signed by the Dunedin City Council and Betterways Advisory Ltd are unveiled yesterday by (from left) Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, Betterways director Steve Rodgers and council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose. Photo by Peter McIntosh.A new version of Dunedin's controversial waterfront hotel could be unveiled before the end of the year, after the developer struck a deal with the Dunedin City Council.

However, plans for the five-star hotel and apartment tower will first have to survive the scrutiny of council staff, and receive a tick of approval from a new urban design panel to be formed for the first time in Dunedin.

The project will also need to survive the barbs of opponents, some of whom were quick to reiterate their concerns yesterday.

But, if it does, the council has agreed to initiate a change to its own district plan, prompting a public process that could see the rezoning of the land, easing restrictions and making it easier to build a hotel on the site. 

Details of the deal between the Dunedin City Council and the developer, Betterways Advisory Ltd, were unveiled at a packed media conference fronted by Mayor Dave Cull and Betterways director Steve Rodgers yesterday.

Mr Cull confirmed the two sides had signed a memorandum of understanding, spelling out how they would work together to try to address the issues facing the contentious project.

Mr Cull praised the deal as a ''partnership'' between the two sides, who both wanted a five-star hotel in Dunedin, while Mr Rodgers said they were now ''working together as a team''.

''This is important. This would be a major investment for the city and very beneficial,'' Mr Cull said.

All options were on the table as the two sides looked for ways to make the project work, Mr Cull said.

That included the hotel's height and appearance, although Betterways remained firmly fixed on developing its land at 41 Wharf St, Mr Rodgers said.

Asked specifically whether Betterways would accept a reduction in the height of the building, Mr Rodgers would only say that ''everything is on the table and nothing is off''.

''It depends on the design and the look [of the hotel]. That may or may not affect the height.''

He would not speculate on whether a radically altered hotel design might emerge at the other end of the process, but hoped for a ''win-win''.

''I think the outcome will be very positive for the city.''

The agreement announced yesterday also aimed to avoid the need for an expensive Environment Court battle, which Mr Cull said could cost the council up to $300,000.

Betterways appealed last year's decision to decline consent for the hotel, but the court process had remained on hold while Mr Cull and Betterways talked about a possible way forward.

Mr Cull said the deal reached meant council staff would work directly with Betterways to try to resolve traffic and ''connectivity'' issues at the site over the coming weeks.

That included reconsidering the possibility of a pedestrian bridge, crossing the main trunk railway line, to link the hotel site and harbour basin with Queens Gardens and the inner city.

If solutions were agreed by both sides, the project would be referred to a new urban design panel to consider.

The panel would look at broader issues, including the hotel's height and appearance, to see if a compromise could be agreed.

Its membership would be agreed by both sides, but was expected to include academic architectural experts and others with relevant skills, recruited from within Dunedin and nationally, Mr Cull said.

The panel would make a final recommendation to both sides, but each would have to decide themselves whether to accept the findings, Mr Cull said.

That process was expected to be completed before the end of the year, and, if accepted, the council would initiate a plan change to rezone the land, council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said.

The plan change process would include public submissions and a hearing, but the zoning change would aim to suit the requirements of the hotel and avoid the need for a fresh resource consent application and hearing afterwards, she said.

It was possible the council could eventually find itself back in the Environment Court, facing an appeal against the plan change, but the process would be more onerous for opponents trying to stop the hotel, Dr Bidrose said.

Unlike the existing appeal, opponents would be on the opposite side of the argument to the council, and would have to do more of the work themselves - and carry more of the cost - rather than simply backing the council's position, she said.

While it was hoped the urban design panel would be able to address most people's concerns, opponents had a ''democratic right'' to object which needed to be respected, she said.

The urban design panel was a new approach in Dunedin, but had been used extensively in Auckland and Wellington with good results, Dr Bidrose said.

She expected the cost to the council would be between $30,000 and $50,000 for members' fees, but this could rise if the council needed help from planning consultants to assess Betterways' proposals.

However, Mr Cull said that would be ''a bargain for both sides'' compared with the cost of an Environment Court appeal.

The approach could also set a precedent for the council and could be used for other investment and development proposals in the city in future, Mr Cull said.

Traffic issues concerning the site would be a ''particularly thorny'' issue to address, which was why it was being done first, before the council committed to the cost of a urban design panel, Dr Bidrose said.

However, Mr Rodgers said the issues were not ''insurmountable by any means'' and had been close to resolution during last year's consent hearing.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

Really?

ItsMe:  "...and we don't have to spend a cent. Wahoo!!"

Really?

Local talent

Perhaps Hype took a long holiday this summer and forgot to check the retail statistics for Dunedin retailers during the last holiday season - record breaking.  I find this amazing that despite the parking meters which ruined the charm of downtown for me, the retail community is quite hardy and going strong.  
The idea of making an attractive retail/dining/shopping park people-magnet is to encourage increased tourism as well as encourage commerce around the natural beauty of Dunedin's wharf area.  There is more than enough talent in Dunedin to create the artistic antique shops, boutiques, dining, ice cream, clothing shops and art galleries that would populate such an area, anchored by a first class hotel with spectacular views.  With far fewer resources than Dunedin, Oamaru has managed to do an excellent job of this by creating a unique area attractive to visitors and locals alike, above and beyond the row retail shops on the regular main streets.  
My original point was that is was certainly preferable to at least think along these lines than simply handing over the area for Andarko to use as their private headquarters to ruin the coast with privateer drilling.  Luckily it looks like Andarko is packing its carpet bags.  That's a win for everyone.

 

Lack of retail is not a problem

Hype: it's not so much "where will the retailers come from?" as "where will the money come from?"
There are so many empty shops downtown because there's not as much wealth circulating in our local economy as there used to be. Solve that problem and the retailers will take care of themselves. In the meantime, interest rates went up today, people will be spending more on mortgages and rent.

Not enough people

"A developed retail shopping and park-like wharf complex would be great for Dunedin," according to The Observer, who must have been taking a long holiday from observation of retail in Dunedin. Where are all the extra retailers to come from? And even more puzzling, where are all the shoppers who would keep them in business? Has The Observer been in the CBD in recent years she would have noticed a large number of empty shops.

A "retail shopping and park-like wharf complex" doesn't happen just because if would be ever so nice, it will happen when there are retailers who need premises (and bear it in mind, these would be new buildings for which the developers would have to charge rental that reflects the cost of building them) and the retailers would only move there if there were more shoppers than the existing retail precincts could serve. Spread the shops and shoppers out over a greater area (or separate areas) and what do you end up with? The opposite of bustling, vibrant, lively, it would be like an oversized version of one of those country settlements where if there are 2 people and a dog on its one street at the same time, people talk about it for weeks and those who didn't see it out their car windows as they drove past argue about whether it could possibly be true.

Better a wharf for the people than Andarko

I was against the stadium and its attendant parking meters, and certainly against oil drilling, but this is a project that Dunedin needs. 

It has been discussed in this paper that if Andarko would find oil and use Dunedin as its base, they could "have the wharf" area for their offices.  This is the single most screwball idea floated in the sea of bad ideas of the past few years.

A developed retail shopping and park-like wharf complex would be great for Dunedin, and an anchor hotel that has gone through a process of intense scrutiny before approval would be a positive step in that direction.

Good

Glad this has finally had a step forward. It's the sort of thing Dunedin needs. We have so many tourist attractions but only average or nice accommodation, nothing spectacular. Look at Auckland and Wellington waterfronts and cities. Dunedin could make great use of the waterfront which would be such an up for the city and create so many more jobs.

Though I agree the height makes it look weird, however if more restaurants and hotels were built there and the waterfront was properly invested in it could look amazing, this is just the first step.

What new design?

Is it possible to see this new design, apparently an alternative to massive Soviet-style brutalism that was going to grace the harbour?

Just build it

Simple answer let's just get this built although hopefully smaller than the expeted height. The jobs, money and benefits this bring to the city along with tourism growth with the 5 star market which we are sorely missing here are massive and we don't have to spend a cent. Wahoo!!

manipulating the system with political help..

Why do I get the feeling this redesign will be pre-approved?  So far this reeks of a textbook dog and pony show.  Developers will simply juggle the loopholes and manipulate the system until they win.  It is all extremely well played, squeeze in with a mild design change then have the district plan quickly changed to suit their ambitions and block opposition.  They must have been flown to headquarters and devised this cunning plan in a "war room" session.  There is no way they will change the height or the original floor plan.  That means it will continue to be a monster rectangle sticking out like a gangrenous thumb over our city.  I predict they'll attempt to put some sort of silly facade around the sides of the original design, then claim they have met all requirements.  I will rabidly support all "progress" in Dunedin, but will not be duped by this blatant pump and dump out of place sham of a "gift to Dunedin".  Conflicts of interests are already being identified.  This will be vigorously opposed with all legal means available.

Wharf Hotel

So once again the DCC has been connned into doing something for an overseas investor that the vast majority of the rate payers don't want.

The writing is on the wall.

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