City of Auckland

07/10/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/09/2024 16:22

The Symphony Centre - a cultural, economic and social catalyst for midtown

Positioned at the epi-centre of midtown's changing urbanscape will be a magnificent structure nestled between a station and a square - The Symphony Centre development.

Located at the corner of Wellesley St and Mayoral Drive, this mixed-use development will encompass residential, commercial, retail, and hospitality to create a dynamic cultural and lifestyle precinct that will completely reinvigorate Auckland's Aotea Arts Quarter.

Part of a major inner city regeneration project, The Symphony Centre will include the refurbishment of heritage-listed Bledisloe House and the activation of connecting laneways to form The Lanes.

The Symphony Centre itself is a 21-storey building, that we like to call a 'vertical village', to be built over Te Waihorotiu Station, and will see the delivery of New Zealand's first Transport-Oriented Development where commercial, residential and lifestyle amenities are combined in the one building to deliver a new model of inner-city living.

Promising widespread commercial and public benefits for Tāmaki Makaurau, its inhabitants and visitors, The Symphony Centre will become a catalyst for cultural engagement, economic development, and social cohesion.

The development is spearheaded by international property and infrastructure development firm Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB). Pioneers of Transport Oriented Developments in Malaysia, MRCB hold invaluable expertise in creating world-class, sustainable, urban infrastructure.

MRCB has engaged local firm RCP as dual development partners. Integral to the strategic thinking and curation behind the successful high-rise, mixed-use proposal for the site, RCP will lead the project on the ground with a multidisciplinary team of market-leading experts, local and international, to successfully realise the vision of the 21-storey Symphony Centre.

Auckland's midtown is currently undergoing a transformation. Head of Auckland Council's City Centre Programmes, Jenny Larking, says it will feel like you are in a new city.

"In just a few years' time it will be unrecognisable, and not only will it look different, but the way people use this part of the city will be different," she says.

We asked Cristean Monreal, Director of RCP about the project and how it contributes to this transformation and springboards optimism in midtown, the city centre and the region.

When The Symphony Centre and Te Waihorotiu Station are completed along with the Auckland Council group's midtown regeneration programme, how do you imagine the new midtown will look and feel?

Tāmaki Makaurau is in a critical era of urban regeneration. We have keenly watched the transformation of city centre precincts like Britomart, Wynyard Quarter and Commercial Bay come to life in recent years. But as the transformation continues to work its way up through midtown and along the CRL line, there is a real opportunity to devise a central hub and reframe the heart of the city.

Auckland's midtown is a beautiful pocket of the city, with undulating streets, historic architecture, vibrant laneways and serene green spaces that offer a space to retreat. The regeneration programme, alongside the delivery of CRL, and the completion of The Symphony Centre and adjacent development projects, will provide this part of town much needed stimulus and unearth a reimagined inner city vibrant with people, commerce and culture.

How important was the City Centre Masterplan as a vision document for you?

The City Centre Masterplan is a strategic framework designed to unlock the city's potential and was critical in formulating a development proposition that responded to the future needs and vision of the city.

In partnership with urban regeneration specialists Eke Panuku Development Auckland, The Symphony Centre development seamlessly addresses two of the masterplan's transformational moves: making Waihorotiu/Queen Street Valley more accessible and more prosperous, and Transit Oriented Development: shaping developments to maximise the benefits of public transport.

Anchored in TOD philosophy where transport, infrastructure, urban design, and property development are woven together, The Symphony Centre presents a unique framework for a live, work, play model sustained as a compact, pedestrian-oriented precinct.

How important was the City Rail Link for MRCB in its decision to invest in midtown?

The City Rail Link was central to the concept and ideation of The Symphony Centre as TOD. An estimated 54,000 commuters are poised to stream out of New Zealand's busiest train station at peak times, offering the area a level of urban activation that is unprecedented for Auckland.

Te Waihorotiu Station presented a unique opportunity for MRCB to give to Auckland what it has given to other major cities around the world - a world-class precinct that rises from a main public transport station. When you match practical transit planning with the development of quality civic spaces that enhance universal access, and combine it with a diverse mixed-use approach to real-estate and urban design - a smart, sustainable city is unlocked.

How does the Symphony Centre compare with similar over-station developments around the world? Is it a first for New Zealand to have an over-station development of this quality on this scale?

The Symphony Centre is certainly a first for Auckland, and a first for New Zealand. Setting a new benchmark for urban regeneration, it combines world-leading design, globally recognised sustainability principles and seamless connectivity to give Auckland an effective solution to its rapidly growing population.

Although it is only a fraction of the size of some of the TOD precincts around the globe, Symphony has applied the same school of thought at each and every point of the development: community must be at the forefront of decision making.

The Symphony Centre's unique identity is what truly sets it apart from other over-station developments and urban regeneration projects. The integration of culture and storytelling has been essential right from the start, acknowledging mana whenua and the land's history to give Auckland a landmark development that harmoniously connects the past, present and future.

How will those who run their businesses from The Symphony Centre interact with the building? Do you think it might encourage new businesses who can make the most of the transport links around them?

The world is moving on from polluting commutes and expensive car parking, Symphony prioritises that shift with its integration over the train station and easy access to wider public transport networks. We have some compelling insights on how readily connected Te Waihorotiu Station is with the rest of Tāmaki Makaurau meaning there is both efficiency and sustainability on offer for prospective tenants.

From a commercial perspective, Symphony's design intent is to offer flexible, modern offices that prioritise connection - of individuals, of teams, of communities. With a variety of fit out options, we hope to see a diverse mix of commercial tenants that will embrace the space and make Symphony their home away from home.

Symphony also presents balance and harmony to the working environment offering thoughtfully curated green spaces around the building, exceptional end of trip facilities, and in-house wellness amenity.

How are Aucklanders who live in The Symphony Centre residences likely to live their everyday lives? Will it be easy for them to get around? Will they be drawn to the abundance of hospitality, theatres, art galleries, entertainment, employment opportunities on their doorstep? Are Aucklanders ready for this?

The Symphony Centre provides a cohesive urban living environment where residents can seamlessly integrate their daily activities - living, working, and leisure - within a single structure.

At the doorstep of Symphony will be a thriving and vibrant civic precinct that enhances the lifestyle. The Lanes will be a new dining and retail destination that will serve patrons day and night, constantly humming with arts, culture and entertainment.

Simultaneously, there is immediate access to the train station which offers residents the ability to transport easily to other parts of the city offering residents a seamless and sustainable way to connect with wider Tāmaki Makaurau.

I think Aucklanders are more than ready for this, they have been waiting for a world class development of this scale that not only promotes safe and sustainable urban liveability but injects business confidence back into the city centre, particularly the upper Queen Street and Aotea Arts Quarter area.

Was the level of public and private investment coming into the area part of the rationale in your business case for developing the Symphony Centre?

Auckland's rapid growth and urban densification requires innovative solutions to accommodate the increasing population and reflect the future needs of its citizens.

Midtown is the gateway to the city's arts and culture precincts, universities, and commercial districts, its regeneration embodies a collaboration of public and private investment where urban planning meets cultural sensitivity with a people-centric approach that will ultimately unlock a safer, smarter and more prosperous inner city.

Much the same, The Symphony Centre relies on an ecosystem of private sector, government bodies, iwi and community organisations to deliver a bold solution that is not only fit for purpose for today, but will serve for generations to come - an enduring landmark that is nuanced and dynamic.

The midtown regeneration plan describes the area as: a part of Auckland where our history, art and culture can be seen and heard and will spill out into public life; where people choose to spend time and socialise; a place that is attractive and feels inclusive and safe.' How important were these aspects for you?

The vision for Aotea Arts Quarter has always been a bustling place, pulsing with students, artists, tourists and city workers alike, and The Symphony Centre will help this neighbourhood realise that potential.

We want to protect and preserve Aotea Arts Quarter's legacy as Auckland's preeminent home of the arts, ensuring it is a place that fosters creativity, connection and culture, which is why we have cultivated important partnerships within the arts community.

Working with The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi and Auckland Arts Festival will help activate arts initiatives in the precinct and connect us with the communities that are the bedrock of this neighbourhood. As well as helping revitalise arts and culture in the inner city, our aim for The Symphony Centre is to ensure the wider community will feel included and consulted as the project unfolds. A project that is rich in cultural authenticity will not only meet the needs of today but will provide future generations with a legacy to be proud of.

What are your plans for Bledisloe House?

Built in the 1950's, Bledisloe House is a bastion of mid-century architecture and plays a defining role in our city's built history. Historic and listed buildings have a vital role to play in Auckland's built future. Through their preservation, restoration and adaptive reuse comes a safeguarding of the city's character and identity whilst creating unique and sustainable environments for live, work, play.

When MRCB purchased Bledisloe House, absorbing it into the adjacent Symphony Centre development, it sought to restore the building making it fit for purpose for today whilst respecting its iconic heritage. Under the guidance of masterplanners and design consultants at Cheshire Architects, a carefully considered redesign concept was presented by the team at PeddleThorp who will lead Bledisloe House's transformation. The upcycle will offer ground level lobby, with retail and hospitality, under nine levels of reimagined commercial space.

Cristean Monreal, Director of RCP.

How will the Bledisloe House development complement The Symphony Centre?

Sitting adjacent to The Symphony Centre, Bledisloe House will be connected by The Lanes - a reinvigorated public space curated with retail, restaurants, wine bars and artistic expression.

Harnessing direct Te Waihorotiu Station frontage will be the key to the occupation and activation of Bledisloe House. The restaurants and bars at ground level will be uniquely positioned to embrace the coming torrent of people released into the city, hungry for food and excitement, while the upper floors will be refreshed to deliver a textured and character-filled working environment.

How excited are you about the future of midtown?

In the pursuit of becoming the world's most liveable city, Tāmaki Makaurau has a lot to be excited about.

In the years to come we will see an invigorated midtown emerge, shaped by innovative, people-centric, and sustainably-forward urban development that will inject the area with character and prosperity. Part of this renaissance is The Symphony Centre, a bold, forward-thinking, sustainable endeavour that will forever enhance the city centre and its patrons.

Cristean Monreal is Director of RCP, dual developers working with MRCB to deliverThe Symphony Centre Development, the refurbishment of heritage-listed Bledisloe House and the activation of connecting laneways to form The Lanes.

This Q&A is part of an occasional series shining light on how Auckland Council's City Centre Masterplan is helpful for the private sector when scoping and planning their projects. This is not an endorsement or paid partnership.

For further Q&A in this series click here,here and here.

Read more about the Auckland Council group's transformation of the city centre here, and the most recently completed interactive stage of the Myers Park artwork Waimahara, part of the midtown regeneration, here.

Credit for all renders - One to One Hundred