Shaping Whanganui. Have your say, korero mai

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1 Shaping Whanganui Have your say, korero mai Outer Commercial Design Guidelines Discussion Document Background The Outer Commercial zone of the District Plan sits on the outside of the central shopping heart of Wanganui. It includes the southern side of St Hill Street up to Ingestre Street and south to the Racecourse, northwest from Ingestre Street up both sides of Victoria Avenue to the intersection of State Highway 3 at the base of St Johns Hill, and a small area surrounding Queens Park. The Outer Commercial zone is shown in Pink on the map below. There is a wide mix of activities including the Trafalgar Square retail complex, large format retailers such as Mitre 10 Mega and Briscoes and Rebel Sport, building suppliers, car dealerships, automotive repair, and other light industrial activities. This area has a predominance of low density and vehicle-oriented commercial or light industrial activities, generally with off-street parking. Buildings are a mix of different architectural styles. Recent large format retail development on the corner of Victoria Avenue and Dublin Street has been criticised for its design and appearance and has raised debate about the need for

2 building design guidelines to cover development within the Outer Commercial zone. The new Rebel Sport and Briscoes building has been criticised for turning its back to the street, providing a long wall on the street boundary without any openings, visibility of air conditioning units on the roof, and the large parking area in front of the building. Key Issues Discussion with planning officers and a workshop with councillors identified several issues with new building design in the Outer Commercial Zone. Issue 1: Active Frontage Buildings lack connection with the street due to a lack of windows and pedestrian entrances to the street. An active frontage on a building is one with windows and doors promoting public interaction between the building and the street. Some large scale retail developments are criticised for their long blank walls without windows or doorways on the street facades. This creates a characterless building with little design appeal. The new Briscoes and Rebel Sport building turns it back to the street and contains no openings on the street facades to allow connection with the street. Harvey Norman is one example of a large retail store that shows a shop front type appearance allowing visual connection with the public space. Harvey Norman frontage onto Victoria Avenue has a shop front appearance.

3 Issue 2: Materials, Scale and Detail The large bulk of some buildings, the type of materials, and their lack of building detail can have a negative impact on human scale, character of the area and visual amenity. The scale of large buildings (such as large format retail) can have a negative impact on visual amenity due to the sheer bulk of a building. Often the buildings are a utilitarian design with little variation in height, materials, and design detail or elements (e.g. windows), verandahs or landscaping to break up large walls. Large scale buildings could be required to adhere to design requirements to reduce their bulk, such as dividing the façade up into several smaller store fronts, and including windows, doors and other architectural details to break up blank walls. The Warehouse building in Queenstown has been broken up with variations in colour and materials, and changes in the roof line add interest. The coloured pattern on this façade helps to add interest and break up the building s large appearance. Issue 3: Car parks New buildings which are set back a long way from the footpath by a large car park can reduce streetscape amenity and pedestrian linkages. As the Outer Commercial Zone is largely vehicle-oriented car parks need to be incorporated. Where large car parks are positioned in front of a building it can discourage pedestrian linkages and may create an unattractive view. Visually, it would be better for car parking and loading areas to be located at the rear or side of buildings and promote a greater linkage with the streetscape by having windows and pedestrian entrances at the footpath edge. If they are to be located at the front then landscaping can greatly improve their visual appearance.

4 Issue 4: Relationship to context Lack of consideration for neighbouring buildings and the wider context of the area can result in disharmony in streetscapes. Relationship to context is about understanding and responding in a considered way to what exists beyond the site. New development should not occur in isolation. New buildings are sometimes designed with little consideration of neighbouring buildings or the surrounding area. For example, the new AA building on the corner of Ingestre Street and Victoria Avenue has been designed with little consideration of the adjoining heritage building. The repetition of some elements of the existing building, such as height, roof line and window openings, would help the new building sit more comfortably in its setting. Also, the same building has been built so that the side wall of the building is only a few feet away from the windows of the building next door (see below). By being so close this shows little sympathy for the heritage building and limits the amount of daylight that can enter the windows. Space around the building, however, needs to be balanced against CPTED 1 principles as we do not want to create a small alley of unused space. Gap between the new AA building and the neighbouring building. This shows the new AA building and the adjoining heritage building behind. If a similar roof line was incorporated into the new building it would help it tie in with the neighbouring building. Example of a modern building which complements the two older buildings on either side. 1 CPTED stands for Crime Prevention through Environmental Design.

5 The modern building behind ties in with the heritage building in front with similar scale windows, the addition of white features and triangular sections on the roof. Issue 5: Corner Buildings A lack of guidance on corner buildings could mean new buildings and structures on street corners or prominent sites could be lacking design elements which could enhance their position. Street corners are important strategic places, where a sense of place and feeling of arrival are experienced. Buildings on corners are highly visible and can act as visual anchors for the street, which means that building design is especially important. Corner buildings provide opportunities for further design features. For example, buildings on corners could be visually emphasised with architectural elements such as elaborate corner entrances or unique parapet features. Corner buildings also benefit from active frontages on both road frontages, i.e. lots of visual interest and connection with the street by use of entrances and windows. Issue 6: Green Building Design Opportunities to create buildings which incorporate green building design (including being healthier, more energy efficient and more sustainable) could be lost if guidance on green building design is not provided and promoted. There are opportunities for new buildings and major alterations to buildings to consider green building practices. This could include such ideas as: Using local materials where possible Designing buildings which can readily adapt to changing uses (e.g. façade imagery that is not exclusive to a single use, multiple entrances at the street edge, proportions that readily allow for internal subdivision to accommodate different uses) Enhancing walkability by providing pedestrian links between sites Energy efficient and sensor controlled lighting

6 The use of windows, skylights, atria or light wells to achieve ongoing natural light and ventilation Storage and reuse of rainwater for bathroom flushing and irrigation of plants Low-flow water fittings Recycling waste storage Providing communal gardens and other communal spaces so people have a chance for greater social interaction and feel a greater sense of community Plantings to soften the built form and enhance biodiversity. Innovative ideas include provision of rooftop gardens, and green walls where plants are designed to cover walls Shared car parking between neighbouring sites to make more efficient use of land and reduce the visual impact of parking areas. The use of permeable paving can help reduce storm water runoff. Providing cyclist parking to encourage cycle use. Green buildings, as well as being more environmentally sustainable, can result in greater productivity of workers, reduced sickness, and higher retention of staff. 2 Options A. Status quo No design guidelines for development in the Outer Commercial Zone. B. Apply the existing Town Centre Design Guidelines to the Outer Commercial zone. C. Redraft a unique set of guidelines for the Outer Commercial zone. The current lack of design guidelines for buildings in the Outer Commercial zone means there is no clear direction for developers in terms of what new buildings should look like. Given the issues raised above building design guidelines are seen as necessary. The Outer Commercial zone is a very different environment from the central commercial shopping area of town with its compact built form, large number of heritage buildings, and pedestrian oriented focus. Option 3 is considered the most practical option as there is a need for a very different set of guidelines for this Outer Commercial zone. Much greater flexibility is needed as the special historical character that exists in the central part of town is not so prevalent in this outer zone. There is also a need to cater for vehicle oriented activities and larger scale more utilitarian designed buildings. It may only be necessary for the guidelines to cover a portion of the Outer Commercial Zone; in particular the areas of the zone which are located on main roads and are more visually prominent. 2 New Zealand Green Building Council website.

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