Auckland Council selling Downtown Car Park building on prize waterfont land

Auckland Council is selling the Downtown Car Park building on prime waterfront land, but whoever buys it will have to accommodate the city centre’s future transport needs.

It is envisaged the site will retain some of the 1900 car parks and could become a major bus interchange with a tall slender tower overlooking the Waitemata Harbour for commercial offices and possibly apartments.

The building is expected to go to the market in the middle of the year to find a development partner once the details are finalised by the council.

Council is remaining tight-lipped about a price for the seven-storey building, which sits on a large 6442sq m site on the corner of Customs St West and Lower Hobson St, behind the M Social Hotel on Quay St.

In 2014 Tournament Parking made a cheeky $75 million offer for the Downtown Car Park, which was rejected.

Precinct Properties, which owns five office towers grouped together near the Downtown Car Park building, told the Herald it is interested in becoming the development partner.

“Precinct have already shown their commitment to Auckland’s waterfront with the recent development of Commercial Bay and their existing investment of $2 billion in the area. They are interested in leveraging the work done on Commercial Bay to create an integrated waterfront destination for all Aucklanders,” said a spokeswoman for the company.

Ever since the council began developing a city centre master plan in the early days of the Super City, the Downtown Car Park building and surrounds have been eyed for redevelopment.

One idea has been to remove the Hobson St flyover and create a plaza near the Car Park building and Tepid Baths.

Planning committee chairman Chris Darby said the hope is to unlock some innovative ideas for the area to connect to the Viaduct Basin and Wynyard Quarter.

“Currently, this is a challenging part of downtown to navigate and there is a real opportunity to improve the access and public realm,” he said.

David Rankin, chief executive of council’s property arm Panuku, which is handling the sale, said it is an opportunity to deliver more good design and public spaces in the downtown area.

Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison said any redevelopment will need to accommodate the city centre’s future transport needs.

He said AT is exploring the transport outcomes to be included with any development agreement, saying they would provide “more transport choices” for Aucklanders.

It is understood the site could be used as a central city bus interchange, which has plagued transport planners for years. A planned bus interchange on Quay St was scrapped in 2019 and a new bus terminal on Wellesley St has gone nowhere.

The loss of some car parks in the Downtown Car Park building is not expected to make much difference to motorists. AT’s four car parking buildings in the central city account for about 20 per cent of the off-street car parks. Wilson and Tournament parking have the lion’s share of the market.

The council has been selling off several valuable sites in the central city to downsize its office space and help plug a $1 billion Covid-driven hole in its budget.

In 2019, the council sold its Graham St offices with harbour views for $58m as part of a plan to reinvest in modern services centres throughout the region.

Earlier this month, the council announced it had struck a $40m deal to sell the lease on a car park on Mayoral Drive for a $452m 21-level office/apartment/retail project. The building will sit above the new Aotea station for the City Rail Link.

The council is also looking to sell another one of its prize assets in the central city, Bledisloe House, for some much-needed cash.

The seven-storey office tower houses hundreds of staff and occupies 1.2ha alongside the car park on Mayoral Drive.

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