Station Square Update


I went to Newmarket’s Station Square this afternoon to see if it had come to life at all since the last depressing update here. Yes, i know I’m obsessed about how awful it is.I’m so sad about it.
Anyway good news. Of sorts. In July I complained the promised cafe never happened and earlier labelled it a ghost town because, after checking it out at various times of the day noticed  people rushed through it and didn’t stay -and there were many empty shops.
The soul-less concrete square now seems to have a new cafe.
About time. I so needed a coffee - and there had been a sign months ago promising an Esquires opening at the Remuera Rd end but there never was.
And joy, yet another one of those Asian quasi-Star Mart places that sell an odd mixture of small grocery type items.

But turn around and face Broadway and there remains empty shops.

Even on a sunny day, the square still feels very cold and uninviting.

The only time it seems to get a life is when high school students hang about after school -and I noticed a security guard seemed to be employed by someone to watch they don’t get carried away. They should let them.

The kids just seem to mooch around because of the odd ban in the square on any “ball games.”

The place doesn’t work on any level. It doesn’t feel connected as part of the railway station and isn’t advertised as such other than being “Station Square” ”

It remains , just as a thoroughfare through which you pass some rather ugly patches.

This is a legacy of the old council. Maybe the new one can give it some desperately needing TLR.

But seriously, short of buying the disaster off the owner and doing an Aotea Square to the square and cleaning up the messy parts and demolishing buildings to really open up the square and putting in some grass and trees……
These days, I always exit through Remuera Rd to avoid the square.
And I still hate waiting on the platform and observing the panties on the apartment building dangling over the decks.

What a planning disaster. Thanks to the Labour government for selling the railway land.

The place so needs some life and flair.

A visitor from Hawke’s Bay checks out the actual station




  1. Decanker says:

    Jeez, it’s depressing, but it was inevitably doomed by that appalling apartment block that somehow managed to get building consent. In Auckland’s top 10, if not top 3, worst buildings. The third photo, an environmental crime.

  2. joyce loves trucks says:

    I think in the 90′s, when the land was sold by the NZ Railways Corporation you will find that was the National Party Govt - not Labour.

  3. karl says:

    I think it is tied with about 217 other Auckland planning disasters in terms of ugliness - it’s just very visible.

    Shame - these horrible things are giving urban intensification a bad name.

    I mean, even former East Germany managed to do better with some of their prefabricated stuff:

  4. DanC says:

    That 3rd photo building is crap! It should be bowled but it won’t. It needs to have a silver fern painted on it or something. As for the view when exiting, barbed wire? What city is this? The square needs plants and statues and well stuff to make it busy and colourful like

  5. Kel says:

    I think the ‘ugly parts’ with their graffiti and barbed wire are more interesting than the new area in fact - with its grey-white apartment block and ice cream shop below. In fact, this whole area looks like an something newly built along the China-Siberian border!!!!

  6. Neil says:

    This is absolutely dire… a total wasted opportunity. I mean how many cheap crappy asian stores do we need in this city? It could have been so good…

  7. kyotolaw says:

    Racism much? Would the small grocery stores be acceptable if they were run by white people? Or perhaps we could stop trying to prevent supermarkets opening in urban environments. (Because they have evil things like carparks).

    I thought the whole idea of better rail networks was to encourage urban intensification.

    You can’t have it both ways. Lots of stations, but no-one inconveniently living nearby.

    No point in making the city denser if we can’t provide cheaper housing vertically also.

    Small grocery stores are also a byproduct of building vertically near train stations. People don’t own cars, use the trains, and need to buy their food locally instead of driving to the supermarket.

    Ugly is part of rail people. Get used to it.

  8. Kurt says:

    Those apartments right next to the tracks at Newmarket really do have an Stalinist North Korean design feel to them. A red star somewhere on the facade would not go amiss.

    I assume the Auckland City Council stipulated that they “Must be hideous from any angle”, to gain consent.

    And it looks like they leak too going by all the repairs going on.

  9. suwooop says:

    Do we have an urban design panel in this frikken city? Because if we do, they need to be fired immediately!!!

  10. Brent C says:

    The square really needs to have improved connections to Newmarkets Broadway. Failing that it will always struggle. As population increases, this could become a nice urban paradise given the right treatment.

  11. Jon C says:

    @kyotolaw Let’s not get sidetracked. It has nothing to do with who runs the stores or what nationality they are. Those marts are welcome to set up and be run.

  12. anthony says:

    God, i am ashamed to admit that soviet russia has beautiful PT stations, squares and buildings. Even if they are run down.

    it is humiliating.

  13. Patrick R says:

    There’s a debate here about this too:

    I don’t think it is as bad as your images imply [the camera always lies], open up that connection to Broadway, and as the station traffic continues to increase this is going to be a lively space. Shame how miserable the retail spaces are, but with enough foot traffic they’ll get occupied. It’s great for safety and vitality to have people living above the square. Kwik-E-Marts are useful too. Recent immigrants are saving Auckland’s urban life by leading the way and showing us old suburbanites how to enjoy city living. Bring it on I say.

  14. Luke says:

    @kyotolaw you seem to miss the point a little. High-rise living can be done well, there is no reason it needs to be bland like the buildings in the picture.
    The really annoying thing is it doesnt take much effort or expense to make those apartments look a whole lot nicer anf give far better urban design outcomes.
    Interestingly in Eastern Europe a bit of effort has been put into making existing high-rises more distinctive, by painting them in different colours for example.

  15. Sam says:

    I think one of the other big problems is that the square is completely enclosed, except for a 2 storey entrance way to Remurera Road, and a dark one story entranceway to Broadway. If the Broadway entrance was wider, lined with retail and didnt have apartments above (a couple of airbridges linking the two sides perhaps), it would be an inviting pedestrian mall which would serve as a catchment for the square from Broadway. Cant really be done easily now though.

  16. Norma says:

    From a landscape architectural point of view, I think the square is awful. I expected so much more when I first saw it - especially as I had been wowed (although not overwhelmingly so) by the new train station. Sure the empty shops and dreadful apartment buildings don’t help but it could have been so much better. There was nothing inviting about the space that made you want to sit awhile and I couldn’t pass through quick enough. Hence I can see no positives to opening a shop around such a gloomy unwelcoming space. I did have a look at Patrick Reynolds’s photos over on transportblog and the only time it looks good is from the air - not a view too many of us are likely to ever get. Reinforces to me that although a landscape design might look fantastic in plan, if it doesn’t work at the human scale (ie for people in it) then it ain’t any good.

  17. Patrick R says:

    I think Norma that the thing is that it isn’t even trying to be Landscape Design and nor should it. It’s Urban Design and while the buildings are needlessly functional and the retail spaces are fatally ghastly [and I mean that for the landlord], the hard edged and enclosed nature of the space, for me, is good. Just take out that one shop at the Broadway entrance and, ideally add one big deciduous tree to counterpoint the hard surfaces and you’ve got a busy little city space. And one of the few without a single vehicle. I like the fact of the living above- if not the design. I know in NZ we have this idea that nature good: human bad, but we are going to have to get our heads around how to do real urban spaces and living, with noise and competing uses. Just wanting everywhere to be like a park or a garden won’t work in a city of 2 million plus and very expensive oil.

  18. Norma says:

    I used the term ‘landscape design’ loosely. I did not mean it in a ‘green’ sense, ie a park or a garden and I totally agree that we cannot have every space looking like a park or garden in the built environment. As design professionals, we tend to use the terms ‘landscape design’ and ‘urban design’ in a somewhat meaningless way - but that’s a whole new argument! As is the nature good: human bad paradigm. This is however, a designed space and one, judging by the number of comments from users/observers, that is not particularly successful. If people don’t like a space, they vote with their feet - although in this instance they just walk through quickly as it is after all a corridor from the train station to Newmarket. I too like the enclosed nature of the space but unlike you, find little else of any merit. I agree with Jon that it is soul-less and uninviting. It not only looks, but feels empty and in my opinion overly relies on paving detail for its visual strength. I think (and again, this is only my opinion) that the widening of the access to Broadway and people appropriating the space more, eg chairs and tables outside the cafe will go some way to improving it. As would have using real tree(s), provision of more seating and perhaps another element such as water in the initial design. One or all of these elements might have made this space so much more engaging and pleasurable whilst still retaining that hard edged look. It is of course, always healthy to have discussion around our built environment - be it positive or negative.

  19. Jon C says:

    @Norma Thanks for your contributions to the debate. BTW, I completely agree with your thoughts!

  20. karl says:

    “Do we have an urban design panel in this frikken city? Because if we do, they need to be fired immediately!!!”

    Suwoop, these were consented BEFORE urban design panels (delays between consents and start of building, and then several years of construction time mean that this building was probably designed in the late 90s).

    Also, developers (who build most of our current apartment housing) hate urban design panels, and try to limit their powers where they can. Don’t shoot the guys/girls who try to do the best they can.

    “Ugly is part of rail people. Get used to it.”

    Kyotolaw, that is total nonsense. Rail need not be ugly - rail used to build some of the most stunning buildings of all time, back in the early 20th century, and neither does urban intensification have to look ugly. You are presenting a false “either/or” choice. We are not complaining about the number of stories here, or the apartment sizes (they are actually quite big in that block!), nor about the outlook from them, or the lack of a private garden or anything.

    We are complaining about a building with NEAR FEATURELESS WALLS, with windows that have no sills, cornices or other articulation, with a flat roof, with a car park that is open to the side and has unfinished block stone walls, covered with barb wire. This thing is a bad example of box housing, and its all because the developers were either too cheap or too clueless to spend the last 10-20% of extra effort that makes a building into something worth looking at.

  21. Gerard says:

    Now to setup my plan. 30 students, some frisbees, the look on the faces of security, priceless ;)

  22. Joshua says:

    there’s still options to save this space to me, although it will never be as good as it should without a rebuild two of my options would be:

    Option 1 - Big tree in the middle with more seating

    Option 2 - Cafe in the middle with planters to give visual constraint

    Although there are more I would tend towards these 2, these of course are low cost options.

  23. karl says:

    “Option 1 – Big tree in the middle with more seating”

    A big tree (or one that could be big in time) would likely require a very big planter rising maybe 1-2m high above the square’s floor (if its not inlaid, affecting the floorspace underneath). It would also be so heavy as to require supporting the floor with extra columns underneath. Unsure whether all that could be done without affecting the car park underneath too much, but either way - very costly. So I think all we are likely to (eventually) get is lots of smaller planter beds with small trees and bushes.

    I like the cafe idea. It’s not like the station NEEDS to be wide open. For what?

  24. Matt L says:

    I think part of the problem with the shops is that they are just to small to be effective, making it very hard to have a full kitchen in them as well as seating etc. Perhaps they need to knock down a few walls to make them double the size.

    Also I wonder if there is a restriction on how many tables are allowed on the courtyard?

  25. Scott says:

    I think the square needs to be managed as a mall (with a mall manager). Mall tactics like cheep rent for “destination” stores who bring in foot traffic could be used. It needs to be managed as a whole rather than individual stored.

    There are experts in the field or retail. Im sure one of them could turn it around in a year.

    I would like to see a bakery and a bookstore there, but the advertising will need to be in place of businesses to even consider it.

  26. Nick R says:

    There is a good prototype in the middle of the Chancery, a cafe-bar that is little more than a big fancy looking kiosk surrounded by bar stools and tables with umbrellas.

    Who actually owns the square? If it’s the council they would be wise to hand over a free licence to trade there in exchange for the positive urban environment it would create.

  27. Jon C says:

    @Nick R That bar in the middle does make a difference to the Chancery area except in the winter when it can be very quiet. Re this square: the council took possession of it. They then put up the sign shown in the post warning people not to have fun there.There was talk of other plans but nothing happened.
    Actually the suggestion of”people” is a good solution because when I was waiting one afternoon, some defiant students got bored and started playing touch. The square actually instantly came alive because of people and noise . Now a guard watches over them to make sure they don’t play, like a teacher monitoring at lunchtime. Bizarre.
    The square otherwise is just a thoroughfare and in a funny way Britomart has that problem at times. Most people rush to leave and exit through the left stairs and escalator out to Queen St near the ticket office and for years no one seemed to go near the right hand area where the cafe was and the Subway is now. Shops came and went there and then there were just empty spaces as there was no foot traffic. Having Subway there has helped a bit but it it still a rather dead wing area of the top floor.
    People do seem to use the top seating area where the TV is a bit more these days which is good to see.
    Shoppers in Broadway probably don’t even think of the square as a place to sit at lunchtime as it’s down an alleyway leading to a station and feels just like a thoroughfare to the station. Maybe some lunchtime entertainment there make it more of a destination.

  28. Patrick R says:

    Norma I think you and I are more in agreement than not. It is overall a very poorly executed piece of work and largely a missed opportunity, my only plea was for people not to abandon what is good about this kind of place because of the miserable parts of this one. And i still think it could be significantly improved. The officious policing by the security guards is the first step. Secondly I would dump the sculptures, they do nothing in this context, in fact they make it worse by having the same materiality as their surroundings[IMHO]. Just take out that one shop wide building on Broadway and that too will help.

    I have spent quite a lot time in the square and it is used, and clearly many people are not lingering here as they are rushing to catch their train, rather than because they dislike the paving. It is principally a thoroughfare, which will also make it hard to let those crappy shop spaces. And they are very poor; too small, too low, too many . Always amazed at how bad developers often are at their own job. Luckily it will get busier simply because the station is still getting busier.

  29. LucyJH says:

    Is weird that you can’t play ball or skate. Might be a good use of an empty paved space.

  30. Jarrod says:

    It is horrible. Such a shame. The Station is great but the square is a joke. So are the new shops on Remuera road. Cheap, nasty, horrible. What a joke.

  31. joust says:

    an interesting suggestion from @Norma about tables and chairs. With summer arriving, perhaps thats an easy win way to claim back the empty space for a few months? As I’m told happens in New York city ( granted Newmarket is smaller in scale.

    Who at the council could organise half a dozen sets of tables and chairs be put out for people to use the space?

  32. Nick R says:

    “Always amazed at how bad developers often are at their own job.”

    Developers are extremely good at their job, which is to build things as quickly and cheaply as possible then sell them for as much as possible. How it pans out once it has sold is absolutely no concern of the developer.

    If anyone is bad at their job, it is the council, or rather the central politicians that more or less prevent the council from controlling development to any great degree.

  33. Nick R says:

    Here’s a crazy idea, planters at the bottom of each of the supporting columns that encircle the square. Plant them with creepers so that they grow up the side of the apartments (like the outside of the Auckland Club) and turn the thing into a big green outdoor room.

  34. Patrick R says:

    True Nick, but in any case where there are untenanted spaces someone in the game is hurting, not just us muggles who have to look at the thing. But yes you’re right, this is principally a failure of governance.

  35. Commuter says:

    Er, Nick R; I realise absence and all that, but it’s the Northern Club, not the Auckland Club who were based in Shortland Street until they were, very recently, absorbed by the Northern. The creeper in question is Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). As well, I think the square would respond really well to Chinese garden treatment: lots of potted plants and something like a lily pond or something (not a fountain though; Auckland has a really bad track record with those).

  36. Norma says:

    Patrick, yes we probably are more in agreement than not. BTW, your photos make even bad/mediocre design look good!


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