Holding Fire On Casino Airbridge


It’s good to see the new Auckland councillors taking a deep breath over the Sky City plans to extend the existing conference facilities it has into an airspace over Federal Street.

Dark depressing Federal St needs a makeover but putting an airbridge over it may not be the smartest move.
The casino dangled an attractive carrot in front of the old city council, which the new council has inherited.
Sky City offered to invest $10m converting the street into a shared space and open up buildings on both sides of the street with ground level cafes, restaurants and retail outlets.
The casino insisted the idea of straddling the road with a convention centre extension covering 38m of the 190m street was “not a building but an artwork with a building inside.”

Proposed SkyCity design for Federal St

Redeveloping Federal Street as a “quality shared space pedestrian friendly environment between Wellesley and Victoria Street so that a wider range of uses, activities and events can occur during both the day and night” is a great idea for an entertainment area of the CBD -and much better than the Wellington Chow brothers plans to covert a heritage hotel opposite into a brothel, which will only attract like.
Quality entertainment spaces (even though I’m not a fan of casinos and some of the people it attracts) is better than re-creating the old seedy Fort St.
But it is the airspace plan that has drawn concern. The proposal would result in an overbuilding that would span a 48m stretch of Federal Street. With a width of 15m, this would give the extension an area of approximately 720m². This would allow Sky City to increase the capacity of their largest conference room to seat 2,000 (currently 1,500) for a lecture, and host a banquet for 1,600 (currently 1,200) people.
The construction of the conference facilities over the road was supported by the city’s former Urban Design manager only as part of a full package of works that allowed for the redesign of Federal Street, supported by active edges to the Sky City property on both sides of the street.

Auckland's Federal St is horrible

Under the new way things are done, Auckland Transport would be responsible for agreeing the terms of the lease for the air bridge and for identifying the scope of the Federal Street upgrade. Auckland Transport would work closely with Council’s CBD Transformation team and the casino to reach an agreed design for the package of works.
This week’s council Planning and Urban Design Forum had before it a recommendation to the city’s Future Vision Committee that it support in principle Sky City’s proposed package of works, being to:

  • Reconfigure the ground floor of Sky City’s buildings on their Federal Street frontages to accommodate a mix of restaurant and retail units, thus activating the immediate edges
  • Redevelop Federal Street as a quality pedestrian friendly street between Wellesley and Victoria Streets so that a wider range of uses, activities and events can occur by both day and night
  • Extend the existing Sky City conference facilities into the airspace over Federal Street.
  • That the Planning and Urban Design Forum recommends that Auckland Council officers work with Auckland Transport to agree and conclude the design of Sky City development of Federal Street between Wellesley and Victoria Streets.

A tick for making the area more pedestrian friendly as planned here

But the relevant local board, Waitemata, local board, while giving full support to transforming the road and opening up the ground level buildings, has wisely decided that his work should not be tied to any air space agreement or extension of the convention facility over the street.

So thankfully the Planning and Urban Design Forum has taken this on board and decided to hold fire and give it more thought.




  1. kris_b says:

    Personally, I’m in full support of it - it’s a fairly unique design for Auckland, and the end result is a vastly better streetscape in a far quicker time frame than would be achieved otherwise, even allowing for the fairly minimal negative effects of the structure.

  2. Mark says:

    It’s a tricky issue - but most likely now nothing will happen.

    It wasn’t a shared space priority, so won’t be done for 10+ years. And even if council fund it as shared sapce, they can’t make sky city alter their building to open up ground floors…… so will have a long inactive edge.

    If the design was interesting enough eg a light artwork, it would be a good solution that could be done now.

  3. Patrick R says:

    Hilarious that Sky City say that it is a poor quality street so give it to us…. Why is it so bad? Because they raped it. This would be like giving the molested kids to the paedophiles to look after because they’re now damaged goods…. Sorry for the extreme metaphor but Federal Street was the west side High St till these pushers came along with their horrible Mall-O-Rama auto dependent carpark and prision combo. Nothing but car park ramps and stupidly coloured blank walls to the streets…. arrrg, I like the tower but to lose a whole block to that lump is vile.

  4. Matt L says:

    This sounds like a pretty stupid decision that has been made by naive politicians who thing they can get Skycity to pay for the street upgrade for nothing in return.

    I think they are concerned that they would affectively hand ownership of the road to Skycity but in reality they pretty much own it already due to the size of their buildings. Not only would the street have been upgraded for free which means no financial impact for ratepayers but the fact they would have paid a yearly lease might have been another source of income for AT which all helps to pay for things like PT

  5. Lti says:

    let SkyCity built this. I hate Casinos as much as anyone, but if they are going to be here, milk them for all they are worth.

  6. rtc says:

    I thought this was the best of bad situation, the street is horrible st present and at least could have potentially improved with active edges. I know other places such as in Japan where outdoor malls run under elevated freeways and the space can work - of course not always but it could have.

  7. Cam says:

    Sorry but i just cannot understand for the life of me why having an airbridge in fedral street is such a problem. What exactly are we trying to protect here?

    This should go ahead without doubt. Let them fix up the horrible mess they have made of Federal street.

  8. KLK says:

    Firstly, if Sky City agreed to make the underside of the airbridge lit up with images projected on it - a destination in itself - then that would greatly improve the area as a whole.

    Secondly, it would effectively make the street a covered, open air, mall. I’m sure Auckland can cope with one of those. It could even be a point of difference.

    It all seems to fit quite nicely with what the street actually is - the entrance to a casino.


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