Station Square Total FAIL


It’s turned into a total fail.
I have been stopping my monthly visits to Newmarket’s troubled soul-less cold concrete- dominated Station Square, dwarfed by ugly claustrophobic apartment buildings, because it’s depressing. Such a wasted opportunity.

Looking at the award-winning station is a good time to revisit the adjacent far-from-award-winning square, which is an example of what not to do.

Sadly, the situation has become even more dire.

Even more shops remain empty, including the drycleaners, which was one of the few remaining “normal” retail outlets there and battled on since the square opened late 2009.

It is now being advertised for $40,000 - “this will NOT last!”

Flags have been bizarrely put in some of the empty shops’ windows to hide the dark foreboding empty spaces. There are so many empty shops.
I gave up counting the empty shops. There seem to be most of them. Even the ones nearest the Remuera Rd entrance are empty still.

And there is no coffee shop of the style you would expect in Newmarket. In fact no coffee shop. Remember there is no retail in the station building itself.

Last October, I wrote:

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. What a planning disaster. Thanks to the Labour government for selling the railway land. The place so needs some life and flair.

And green… trees…. anything but concrete and signs telling kids not to play there.
A year ago I wrote:

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.

And when I first complained when the square opened labelling it a Ghost Town, I was rewarded with some abusive emails saying I was doing the Auckland thing of knocking new things before they had a chance.
Well, we have given it a chance. It’s now a blot on the landscape.
Over to you, new councillors.

UPDATE:  here




  1. Hamish Keith says:

    Short term- say one year - artist studios - rehearsal spaces - weekend art and craft market - farmers market - car boot market. Plenty of ways to fill this dead space and put on the public map. Empty shops wont do it. Newmarket Business Assoc. get off your bum and make it work.

  2. AKT says:

    @Hamish Keith Wonderful ideas, thank you.

  3. Principal Skinner says:

    Ignore the abuse. Someone needs to be telling it like it is. The truth hurts. We want a vibrant city full of people. That’s what Len Brown wants - a ‘livable city’ - words are easy. Time for some action.

  4. Kurt says:

    On a positive note though its fantastic on a hot summers day, it doesn’t get about 15 degrees in there, thanks to the Stalingrad styled apartment block.

    I suspect it wasn’t Labour that sold off the land either but the previous government.

  5. Lti says:

    The problem is that its always going to be completely hidden behind those hideous apartment blocks.

    If you were walking down Newmarket’s main drag you would never even know it was there.

    It really needs to be opened up to the main street. I have no idea why the main station entrance is off Remuera road next to a massive traffic light controlled driveway to the aparment’s parking area.

  6. Patrick R says:

    That apartment building is vile, especially its massive fail of the traffic light controlled parking! Insult to injury it’s mostly on stolen railway land. At the very least it should be a real TOD, its right to exist granted on the basis on no car parking.

    But it’s there, how to fix the square? One grand tree would help enormously, this would involve loosing a car space or two bellow ground, not difficult, but either way those silly ‘sculptures’ need to go… The retail spaces were clearly ‘designed’ by an idiot and a quantity surveyor like the rest of the thing and will never work… Probably best to hand them over, pro bono, to other users as Hamish suggests above. Horrid little slots that they are.

  7. Matt L says:

    Patrick I had heard a rumour that the develop of those apartments offered to sell back some of the land to allow for a 4th track to be built but whoever was involved in designing the station at the time didn’t want it (or couldn’t afford it)

  8. Ian M says:

    @Matt L. If that’s true thats very sad. Instead there is an underground carpark.

  9. Ingolfson says:

    What’s also surprising is that there is ZERO attempt by the owners (who must be BLEEDING money with all those empty retail spaces) to improve the area.

    As people have said - it could be so easy. Give a small portion of the shops to community activities that could create some life. Spend a couple dollars on large planter boxes with shrubs to bring in some greenery. Allow artists to do performances or exhibit artwork for free. All options for little or no monetary cost. Nothing.

    Probably the shops are all individually owned by “mom and pop investors” living in Wellington or Singapore or wherever, and no one can agree / has the body corp approval to actually act creatively.

  10. Ingolfson says:

    “Over to you, new councillors.”

    “UPDATE: Council Officers are planning to widen the link to Broadway through a $700k package of works.”

    However, contrary to Jon, I am not so sure Council should spend money fixing up these faults… we have such dire financial times for PT, there’s much more useful things to spend money on than to come to the rescue of some investors who have chosen a bad designer/architect.

  11. Geoff says:

    They need to pull down the shoe shop and open up the Broadway entrance, and they need to put a lawn in the central part of the square, with a real tree in the middle, and maybe some colourful flowers around the place. Make it attractive for people to sit and have lunch. It’ll liven the place up and make having shops worthwhile.

  12. Andu says:

    ”…put a lawn in the central part of the square, with a real tree in the middle, and maybe some colourful flowers around the place”

    Couldn’t agree more Geoff. That would really change the square for the better and may give the square a fighting chance.

  13. rtc says:

    The Council owns the two buildings to the left of the entrance when facing it from Broadway and it had been planned for a long long time to open it up, I’m guessing it was delayed under Banks term as a way to cut costs and I had assumed it had someone fallen by the wayside during the council amalgamation - it’s great to see it’s still on the cards. I think opening it up will make a huge diiference to the square. Perhaps the council should simply install a huge bike rack in the middle, would make a better use of the space than currently.

  14. Sometimes “I told ya so” leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.
    Sadly, I guess this is one of those times…
    What will it take for councils to involve the PEOPLE more in their decisions, before they authorise such white elephants???

  15. rtc says:

    In this situation I think it was because a private developer was allowed to produce a ‘public square’ with pretty barebones requirements, much like the rest of the development the outcome is pretty mediocre. In the future the council should take much more control, hopefully resulting in a better outcome.

  16. Steve says:

    This is a real shame and wasted opportunity. Newmarket would really benefit from an outdoor market. Being a resident of the suburb (not the appartment complex) I and I assume others would really enjoy going there on the weekends. As Hamish mentioned above with little further development it could be turned into a lively farmers and craft market in little time. Right on the train station too, perhaps a good way to promote the train as a transport option.

  17. Owen Thompson says:

    I walked through the Square today for the first time. Would have left faster, but took a few seconds to see where the Broadway exit was. No signs, and tough luck if you didn’t know it existed.

    Highlight was finding both lots of public toilets.

    But I really do love that old map by the ticket booth.

  18. Penfold says:

    @Matt L & @Ian M
    I know that the developer offered to build a platform on his land and gift perpetual free lease, this occured as the building foundation construction was underway for Queen’s Lodge, which was the same time that the design for the new station began. The City Council said this could only be done if the Building Consent for Queen’s Lodge was completely revised and this could only occur after the design of Newmarket station had been completed. This would have slowed down the developer by probably a year. The short sightedness of those at the City Council are the reason that an additional platform could not be built. The developer was unable to get people in Council to buy into him helping them.

  19. Penfold says:

    My understanding is the developer was under no obligation to provide any public square and could have just provided a corridor from Broadway to the station.

  20. Penfold says:

    @Patrick R
    The land was sold so cheap that the developer came out of retirement to do this project (the full project stretches from the bottom of Khyber Pass to Remuera Road). Like the sale of the railway land next to Remuera Station this was clearly very short sighted, but you can’t blame the developer for grabbing a bargain when offered.

  21. Penfold says:

    The original developers are from Singapore but I believe also have residences in Auckland. The apartments were all marketed in Asia with basically no marketing in New Zealand. I would imagine that the shops were sold in the same manner.

  22. Patrick R says:

    @ My blame goes 1. the [then] gov for flicking the land to Fay Richwhite and friends at all, the land should never have been sold even if the rail service was. 2. the developer for going for such a low rent [and auto-dependant] model. and especially 3. the council approving the design of it.

    However unlike it seems everyone else here I like the square itself. Not the building at all, but the enclosed and paved square I like. It has an urban quality that is rare in AK, it’s sheltered, a little hidden, and not without theatre. As I said above I think it could be improved with one grand tree but definitely not flowers and grass… I know this isn’t going to fly with you all but it has the structure, but none of the charm, of good small piazza or even a university quad. I like apartments overlooking a public space, shame about the design, materiality and scale of these apartments and most of all with the horrid thoughtlessness and sardining of the vile low stud shops…. but with the station itself on the sunny southern side and the amount of people moving through I think it has a lot of good qualities, and ones that our blandly over-spread out and low res. city needs more of.

    That should get you all going….

  23. [...] Yesterday I described the Square as a total Fail with its empty shops and concrete jungle and I challenged the new Council to do something. [...]

  24. Evan says:

    This square has also suffered because of the recesssion. Look at Broadway itself - far too many empty premises there now. Don’t be too tough on the square. When the heat goes on again, those shops will be picked up in no time. Also, not the growth in numbers of people using rail. Actually Sylvia Park has made a dent in Newmarket for now but it will be back. Cheer up!

  25. KarlHansen says:

    Evan - even if it is busier, the square will sadly remain an eyesore, due to the horrible buildings, and the lack of anything that one could call “inviting” or “human(e)” about the surroundings. We have lots of busy places the world over that are horrible. Having lots of people that HAVE to use them doesn’t make them much better.

    We aren’t depressed about the Newmarket Station itself, or PT performance there, we are concerned that “urban design” like this can / does still happen (and that it will be with us for the next 30-60 years at least).

  26. Jon Eriksen says:

    The Waitemata Local Board is being asked to organise a meeting of all interested parties so that issues and opportunities can be understood and actions agreed that various parties can take to improve the situation.


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