Wednesday, 26 October 2016

SimCity, South Frame

Christchurch's game of SimCity continues. Has it been 6 years already?

Part of the Grand Plan for downtown had the Crown buying up blocks of land running along the south side of the old downtown. The area along the north side of Moorhouse Avenue had a pile of car dealerships, among other businesses. The Master Planners thought it would be nicer as a park with walking access, and with potential to be turned into apartment buildings or townhouses someday down the track. The wishes of the owners of that land were rather secondary to the Master Planners' visions.

You can do funny things when you're a Master Planner. Like designating a strip through the middle of someone's business as the necessary walking path, deciding the rest of the property is no less usable because of the taken strip, and trying to pay compensation for the taking just for the strip down the middle. SimCity is a fun game - for the planners at least.

Here's the Christchurch Press on the South Frame:
Private negotiations between the Crown and central city businesses appear to be holding up plans to acquire the last plots of land sought for Christchurch's south frame anchor project.

The Crown says it has just 4000 square metres of land left to acquire, after spending the last four years spending $25 million buying up 25,000sqm for the shrinking anchor project.

The project, containing laneways and public spaces, was designed to frame the core of the city, along with the east frame and north frames and Avon River precinct.

Otakaro Limited has confirmed designations covering much of the south frame land remained relaxed, with south frame designation fully, or partially, lifted on 54 per cent of properties initially in the plan.

But Colliers International's Christchurch managing director, Hamish Doig, did not understand why the Crown was continuing to pursue land for the project,  labelling the south frame a "folly".

An Otakaro spokesman said talks with a "range of landowners" were ongoing, but refused to comment further or provide further details because of the "commercial nature" of the discussions.

"The south frame will be delivered in stages as land is acquired for the laneways and public spaces.

"In many cases only a portion of a parcel of land will be required for the south frame public realm," he said.
So negotiations continue, with the threat of eminent domain in the background. But why? More from Hamish Doig:
Doig said he was not surprised negotiations had taken four years, but he was surprised the Crown was continuing to acquire land for the south frame.

"What surprises me [is] that they're continuing to pursue it.

"I think the whole idea of laneways through the southern frame and through the Health Precinct is an absolutely flawed concept," Doig said.

The project would have some merit if there was "connectivity" between the blocks earmarked for development.

"So you've got this swathe of lanes through the middle of the blocks . . . Colombo St, Durham St, Montreal St and you have to walk up to the lights to to actually go across at a controlled intersection.

"One thing I do know is that basically we humans are lazy, we're going to take the course of least resistance, so why wouldn't we walk down the footpath rather than walk through a lane?

"It just seems an absolutely flawed way to commute . . . I just don't understand it," Doig said.
It isn't that hard to understand.

Somebody in government thought that downtown Christchurch was too spread out before the earthquakes, that car dealerships never belonged downtown in the first place, and that restricting the space available for a downtown would force it to be denser. Designating the frames would take land out of circulation and prop up prices downtown, which by the magic of underpants gnomes would encourage people to rebuild downtown. And the parkland frame could later be put to residential use to encourage more people to live downtown. Lovely.

But nothing quite worked out as planned. And so the parks became laneways and nobody could quite admit that a dumb sunk cost should be abandoned. Maybe abandoning it would encourage those property owners put out by the designations and the consequent legal costs to seek compensation for the very real harms done them; maybe it's just too hard to admit you're wrong.

SimCity isn't quite as bad as Wargames, but still....

Meanwhile, Barnaby Bennett points to this additional problem:
It's all still held in some back archive, but if you thought you'd saved useful links for later research, well, if you didn't cache the page in Evernote, you're probably out of luck.

In Seinfeld, when George realised that every instinct he'd ever had was wrong and that he just needed to do the opposite, he needed to remember what his usual pattern was. Doing the opposite doesn't work if you can't remember what normal is.

Come Wellington's eventual earthquake, just doing the opposite of CERA and CCDU wouldn't be far from wrong - but that requires remembering what the government did to Christchurch. Breaking the links doesn't help with that.

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