Ghost Town


In October, before Newmarket’s new train station opened, I had worries about the Station Square that was adjacent to it.

I wrote:

It looks like the sort of dreadful concrete jungle Auckland planners love. It feels very mean to knock the public space before it’s officially opened but my strong bias about Auckland’s typically bland soulless concrete spaces like Aotea Square is well known. Oh for a tree or grass or something green. Or anything other than grey. The station itself is full of grey metal and concrete but its functional. Why does this always have to be Official standard Council / Government Department Grey?

I was rewarded with some abusive emails saying I was doing the Auckland thing of knocking new things before they had a chance.

Actually, you’ll find overwhelming evidence on this site that I am positive about Auckland and especially love Newmarket.

But OK, six months since it opened for business, how is the square doing?

Empty shops at Newmarket's Station Square

Sadly Still Souless in Seattle.
Wandering around, I lost count of the empty shops and for lease and for sale signs.

Even in Remuera Rd at the entrance to the square, there’s not much retail life.

Remuera Rd entrance to Newmarket's Station Square

So what is there?

With one of the country’s prime fashion and restaurant streets opposite in upmarket Newmarket, it’s a real shame this seems so out of place and a missed opportunity.
Something spectacular could have distracted us from the bland apartment buildings that surround the wonderful railway station.
Signs at the square warn that any ball throwing is strictly prohibited.
Oddly the only time the square comes to life is sometimes mid-afternoon when schoolboys waiting for a train kick a ball around.
Otherwise, you see the odd apartment dweller including Mothers with their kids but this is not a traditional town square where people gather and enjoy the space.
Thankfully the grass area on the corner of Khyber Pass and Broadway has re-opened, is beautifully done, and is indeed a nice meet and greet area. And it has greens.

Newmarket's Lumsden Green creates the right urban oasis

It’s crucial that AMP get absolutely right the planned Lion Breweries development on that large Khyber Pass site - still no hint or announcement from them yet of what’s planned.
Otherwise that site will end up looking like the four letter word starting with S that sits in Ponsonby still.

Ponsonby's Soho Square is awaiting tenders of interest to save it




  1. William M says:

    I can see abuse being thrown at me from certain directions, however, I’m a little concerned that aside from lack of exposure to business - we’re drawing the WRONG type of business to Station Square. There are TWO dairies, TWO beauty emporiums (for nails, no doubt) and a drycleaning shop. Are the realtors or Auckland City Council even appealing to the right markets? The fact we have the above listed retailers in Station Square is really tacky. Infact, they even _look_ very very tacky.

  2. Jon R says:

    Yes, I was looking at the square just last Friday and very disappointed in the type of retailers there. I am not racist(for anyone looking at firing cheap shots), but everything there is Chinese and unfortunately the type of person who resides or shops in Newmarket is not typically attracted to these “lower end” looking shops. Some have tacky adverts plastered all over their windows befitting a run down dairy in a suburb, not a multimillion dollar square at a very impressive rail station in Aucklands fashion district.

    They have gone for low end retailers, possibly because all the leasing companies contacts are …..Chinese - have a look for yourself in the adverts of all the empty shops windows.

    The square needs a modern and contemporary cafe/bar with chairs and tables. TREES - REAL TREES / palms to green it up and give it some feeling would be great too.

    Until it has a better mix of retailers and REAL TREES I am not likely to spend anytime in that square. It is so much a place you want to get out of as soon as possible. Waste of assets, waste of potential.

  3. Cam says:

    @William i agree those retailers do look tacky but i suppose it’s all about who was willing to take on the lease.

  4. Tim says:

    The drycleaning shop is very good, handy for when I get off the train to drop stuff off. He’s very friendly and chatty and does a good job of cleaning too. Plus his prices are better than others in Newmarket.

    That’s the only business I go to there though, the rest are tacky, overpriced crappy dairy’s. The ones where they eye you up expecting any second you’re going to shove 12 boxes of biscuits down your pants.

    The square seems to serve mostly as is a as place for the School kids to hang out in the mornings.

    The only market potential there is for people going to/from the trains. No one is going to walk up the dirty alley, past 2 sets of public toilets to go shopping in a dark, concrete jungle.

  5. Matt says:

    Having walked through the square once, to see what it was like, I would quite probably take the long way around the corner rather than endure that soul-sucking dull greyness again. It’s boring and depressing.
    One of the things I love most about Auckland is the proliferation of green spaces - inner-city parks to numerous to count, Lumsden Green, all the little parks that dot our suburbs… We’re a city that does green spaces well, but this space is just bland concrete, with the soul (or absolute lack thereof) to match.

  6. William M says:

    @Matt: I agree and I have done this on my walking journeys to Newmarket. I avoid Station Square at all costs now!

    @Cam: like Jon R mentioned just before - it may be about who will take on the lease, but it just seems like a lack of pride and complacency from Auckland City Council in this new space which, for all its depressing features, is still a step in the right direction. Station Square could be so much more.

  7. Ian says:

    Desperately needs a much larger and more inviting entrance from Broadway. The planners have really dropped the ball on this one.

  8. Matt L says:

    I wonder if the owners of the shops are expecting to much money for the sites, that and we are just coming out of a recession so retail spending is still low. A few cafes would really help to liven the place up.

  9. Ian M says:

    I believe lack of well defined access is one of the biggest issues. Many visitors to Newmarket probably don’t even know the area exists. Of course it is likley that half the problem for why retailers haven’t moved in is that directly above the shops people are hanging their washing out to dry..Not very appealing

  10. ingolfson says:

    “They have gone for low end retailers, possibly because all the leasing companies contacts are …..Chinese – have a look for yourself in the adverts of all the empty shops windows.”

    So? There are lots of nice “Chinese places” too. The reason lower-end shops go into Station Square is because the higher-end stores wouldn’t look twice at it. I agree with Jon’s comments wholeheartedly. What the F*** are those stupid metal trees? Why not some real landscaping? But then again, this is the building where the car park OUTER WALLS are still unpainted / uncovered concrete blocks, looking like some unfinished construction site.

    I come from a city that was pretty much flattened by bombs in WWII. None of the new stuff that sprang up in there the 5-10 years after is as soulless as this.

    Auckland Council? Meh, it’s not their site - I guess the only crime they can be made to plead guilty to is the fact that they don’t have some rules that encourage good urban design / rules that prevent the worst examples.

  11. William M says:

    @ingolfson It’s Auckland City Council’s property - they took the site, along with Newmarket Station when it was completed. Technically, the “vendor” of the leases would be Auckland City Council, soon to be Auckland Council. They should probably take more care of who is tenanting the complex.

  12. James B says:

    This reminds me of Devonport Wharf, fantastic location, low quality shops.

  13. Joshua says:

    As we have said before there needs to be more life, and as Jon R has said, we need nice cafe/bars to move in, have planting around etc, so much wasted potential.

    Have to agree, very depressing after coming out of a world class station.

  14. kiwipom says:

    i am guessing that the reason for the asian owned shops is the fact that most of the residents in the surrounding apartment buildings are most likely asian as well. I have been once into the dairy in the corner by the square entrance and it was so cramped and stuffed full of stock that unless you are a size 0 supermodel (which I am not) it was nearl;y impossible to move.

  15. DanC says:

    All will be solved if the snapper card has the correct modelling. In London it works on zones and say to travel 10 times from zone 2 to one = £25 then the weekly travel card costs £25 for all travel in zone 1 & 2. So will snapper card have zones? Will the price be the same as 10 trips to and from work? If yes then the rest of the travel is free and you will see more people using PT on weekends. As it’s “free” to go out. The Newmarket station will be used more and have more people traffic through the station square. For example Clapham Junction in London is a complete dump and is No.2 worst station in the UK but has a ton of busy shops because of the number of people using the trains.

  16. rtc says:

    Has there been any movement from ACC to demolish the two buildings at the front and open the square up to Broadway? This was planned all along and yet from what I hear hasn’t happened - as a result you have a tunnel as an entrance and no wonder no one goes in there. Furthermore, how about filling it with some large planter boxes - it needs some life in there not just concerete!

  17. Jon R says:

    I seriously doubt “Snapper card” or any card will make the square at Newmarket station any more desirable. In any case Snapper isn’t the prefered card and the Thales group card with significantly proven technology is what Auckland and NZ will be getting soon.

    The place needs trees, far better mix of retail and cafes and bars.. and not messy stores more suitable for a market or run down suburb. This is the HEART of Newmarket afterall!

  18. James B says:

    Maybe give a discounted rate to an anchor tennant who can bring in people. I would suggest a bar/restaurant chain like Mecca or Tasca would get people in there. Particularly if you can do a deal with train/Rialto/dinner. There are very few open spaces in Newmarket where you can sit outside and this could be a golden opportunity to do it.

  19. Jon R says:

    I agree with you James B. You would think they saw this golden opportunity a long time ago…. not let the place sink as low as it has.

  20. Scott says:

    It needs a good manager from a mall design background to set it all up.

    I feel the main issue is that stores (empty spaces) in the square are too small to attract large popular retailers or restaurants. A bakery and a cafe would add vibrancy. A bookstore would be be ideal to put next to a train station (if any of the stores are large enough).

    The Broadway entrance really needs to be sorted out, the exposed plumbing is not a good look.

  21. DanC says:

    Some form of travel card will be perfect. On the other hand why did the planners choose grey?

  22. DanC says:

    Also get rid of the buildings blocking the square from the Broadway, offer those tenants the new shop space.

  23. Geoff says:

    There are three problems with Station Square:

    1) It needs greenery, and removal of those “glass trees” that make it look cluttered and give it a feel of artificial-ness.

    2) The asian shops are not catering for the users of the square - if they did, they would have their main signage in English.

    3) Only rail users and residents know about it, because the proper Broadway entrance we have all been waiting for has not eventuated. The square needs to be opened up to Broadway across at least two shop widths.

  24. Joshua says:

    Here is my list;

    1) We need greenery, long cafe style plant boxes with hedges will be ideal.

    2) Entrance needs to be sorted ASAP,

    3) Shops need to be combined, they need larger frontage so proper stores are able to utilize the space. These shops are not very ideal for the type of stores this area needs.

    4) controlled signage, the signage should not be on the apartment wall area, makes the place look even more tacky.

    5) someone to lock up the designer and never let him have anything to do with another Public Space in Auckland again!

    I think almost what everyone else is thinking.

  25. ingolfson says:

    Lol, Joshua, I agree with you. Though I think you are being too uncreative with the designer’s punishment. He should be forced to live in the Queen’s apartment building (the big block adjoining the square to the north), and have to have his office in a ground floor shopfront tenancy giving onto the square.

  26. jon r says:

    And he should be forced to only consume products available from stores in the station square!


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