25 Feb 2015

Auckland's QE Square sold for $27 million

7:53 pm on 25 February 2015

Auckland Council has sold Queen Elizabeth Square to developer Precinct Properties for $27.2 million. The company has been negotiating with the council since last year.

The proposed new Downtown Development in Auckland.

The proposed new Downtown Development in Auckland. Photo: Supplied

The company has announced the conditional purchase of the public space, as part of a deal in which the first stage of the City Rail Link will be built under land it owns.

Precinct Properties owns the buildings around the Square and has been negotiating with the council since last year over its purchase, and how redevelopment would accommodate the rail tunnel.

However, Auckland councillor Mike Lee has said the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square to a private company is not a decision made with public interest in mind.

"This is a bad decision, not in the public interest, and this will be regretted for many decades to come, I can tell you that: the loss of that public open space, the enormous building that it facilitates, the minimal financial benefit to the ratepayer…"

Mr Lee said that though the developer has promised public space, it would have a different idea about what that actually looks like.

The Auckland Council has sold the square to developers Precint Properties for $27 million so it can make a start on the City Rail link.

It will pay Precinct $9m for the land it loses due to the train tunnel, and about $11m for the extra cost of building its office tower over the tunnels.

Chief executive Scott Pritchard said public space would be a design priority.

"When we bought the site we thought it was a great site for an office but what we've learned through the design process is that the retail opportunity, and the opportunity for public space is actually quite exemplar.

"So we're committed to ensuring that this development is going to be something that's truly transformational for us, but also for Auckland city."

Ludo Campbell-Reid, the Design Champion at Auckland Council, said there would be critics of the development put up in place of the square, but the council could not just be style police, as it needed to ensure that what was built was practically suited to the public.

The alignment of the City Rail Link requires new rail tunnels to be constructed through the site occupied by the Downtown Shopping Centre, which is owned by Precinct Properties along with two adjacent commercial office towers, HSBC Tower and Zurich House.

The deal between the two parties enables the rail tunnels to be built as part of the Downtown Development Project.

Auckland Transport will pay $9m in compensation for loss of land to the rail tunnel.

The council-owned agency will also pay nearly $10.7 million towards the higher cost of Precinct Properties' proposed new tower block, under which the tunnel will run.

The sale of the square was approved by Auckland Council's Development Committee on 11 September 2014 after a report found the proceeds from selling the underused and poorly performing city space would allow the creation of new public spaces that better meet the needs of the area.

Construction will begin in the middle of next year, with a target completion date of 2019.

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