Save the Downtown Car Park Building

Shery Gartner is a concerned Aucklander. An accountant, she has been waging a determined campaign to save the Downtown Car Park Building. Shery is convinced that the building’s 1944 off-street car parks are vital for public access to downtown and the waterfront. 5,939 Aucklanders who have so far signed her petition agree with her.

Shery Gartner takes her ‘Save the Downtown Carpark petition to the Auckland Town Hall (Photo Mike Lee).

Shery told me, “Over a year ago – someone at Council mentioned that the Downtown Carpark was sold.  I was quite distressed, as I use it all the time. I had not heard anything about it. Missed it in the news. I was shocked. I refused to believe this was happening, knew it was a very wrong decision, and I felt I had to do something about it.”

The decision to sell the DCPB was made by the Auckland Council Finance Committee in December 2020, in response to an ‘unsolicited offer’ to buy. It was resolved that the CCO, Panuku would lead a ‘market process’ to select a ‘partner’ to redevelop the site to achieve the ‘outcomes’ of the council’s planning committee – in consultation with the AT Board. The selected partner was Precinct Properties, which owns a number of buildings along the waterfront. In June 2021 the council’s Planning Committee added a number of conditions relating to the site’s redevelopment. 

The Downtown Car Park Building (DCPB) was built by Auckland City Council in 1970. At the time it was the largest in the country. Since the advent of the ‘Super City’ it has been managed by Auckland Transport. 

An earlier attempt to buy the building in 2015 was sternly resisted by AT because of its strategic value to the central city and its commercial value to AT.

In response to this second bid, initially AT pointed to the 196,000 trips per day by private vehicles into the city centre. It noted that with the progressive reduction of on-street parking from some 5,000 parks in 2014 to 2,400 in 2021, more than 50%, and with a growing population, there would be a continued demand from Aucklanders for short-term parking in the inner city.  

AT disclosed it planned to retire long-term leased parking in the DCPB and transfer these to short-stay parks as it continued to reduce on-street parking. In other words shifting on-street parking to off-street. As a lot of congestion is caused by cars looking for parks this is an approach considered best practice by urban traffic planners around the world.

As part of the redevelopment AT proposed the retention of 400-600 short-stay parks, EV charging, an integrated bus facility and bus driver facilities. 

But AT officers were pressured in council meetings to abandon even these objectives. Part of that pressure came the anti-car ‘urbanist’ lobby and the previous Waitematā Local Board. 

As part of the redevelopment AT was told to forget about public car parks, and the interior bus station.  The proposed deal instead required AT to buy and fit-out a 3000m2 ‘micro-mobility centre’ (for scooters and bikes). AT was also instructed to pay for the demolition of the Hobson Street Flyover. In my last meeting as an AT director my colleagues balked at these conditions and the costings (which embarrassingly for the Panuku and AT executives present, didn’t add up). I understand the whole proposal will now go back to Council. 

Shery Gartner believes the Downtown Car Park Building bookends Britomart, providing transport options and choices which makes the downtown available to all.

“I have been a commuter and was so grateful to have it, for days I needed to take my car into the city, as I had an engagement after work – affordable for a whole day.

I have taken my mother in a wheelchair into the city, and was so thankful to have, easy, reasonably priced parking. I have been grateful to use the Tepid Baths often. I am a lone female, grateful for safe undercover parking at night, close to the Viaduct, Wynyard Quarter, Commercial Bay, and Queen Street.”

“I have taken day trips to Waiheke and been grateful that it was reasonably priced on the weekend, and met island residents who rely on it for their city parking.

I have seen record numbers of Aucklanders, from all over the city flock to the Viaduct for New Year fireworks celebrations. Imagine if wasn’t there?”

Shery making her case to the Auckland Council Transport & Infrastructure committee

More than one petitioner has said that the removal of nearly 2000 public car parks will ‘kill the downtown’, moreover the word in the market place is that the proposed sale is commercially a terrible deal for the council – and for the ratepayers. Given past performance of council privatisations, that’s no surprise. I’ll be supporting Shery Gartner’s mission to keep the Downtown Car Park Building and I hope Ponsonby News readers do too. Here’s her petition:

This article featured in the October issue of Ponsonby News and the Gulf News

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