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Block party: The joy of apartment living

Block party: The joy of apartment living

Oct 20, 2015 Property

This article first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Metro magazine. Artist’s impression of the Wynyard Quarter apartments.

Noticed the change? In Newmarket and New Lynn, Orewa and Orakei, Grey Lynn and Glenfield, apartment blocks are rising. They now account for the biggest category of building-consent approvals, and they’re changing the city.

There’s something for everyone, from luxury in the Wynyard Quarter to glorified shoeboxes in other parts of town — and “glorified” is a bit flattering at that.

Done well, apartments are the key to the liveable city. That doesn’t mean everyone should live in them — far from it. Auckland’s housing stock will always be mainly suburban stand-alone homes. But good blocks of apartments provide density to a suburb without destroying lots of free-standing homes.

When you have more people in a suburb, there are more services (more medical services, more hairdressers, more frequent public transport…). There’s more choice: different types of restaurants, competing versions of yoga, more mechanics. Someone’s more likely to open a cinema, or a climbing wall or a bookshop.

Apartments are typically cheaper to own than free-standing houses in the same area. So they allow older people to downsize from their family homes while staying in the suburb they love. At the same time, they make it easier for young families to buy a home close to the grandparents.

And the growth of the city means investment in an apartment is likely to remain as robust as any other property investment.
Buy an apartment on an upper floor and you could find yourself with the kind of harbour view that people living in houses on the flat have to pay millions for.

Buy an apartment on an upper floor and you could find yourself with the kind of harbour view that people living in houses on the flat have to pay millions for.

Buy an apartment with easy access to common parkland or grassed areas and you could become part of a warm, supportive, family-oriented community. And if it’s well oriented to the sun, has been built for energy efficiency and designed with a sense of grace, you’ll feel good every time you go home.

If it’s on one of the arterial ridges leading in and out of the city, you could find yourself in the very heart of a new, vibrant style of Auckland living. The start of Great North Rd has several apartment blocks under way and more to come, and within two or three years will probably be home to a cinema, many more shops and cafes, and a road regime that separates vehicular traffic and parked cars from bikes.

Within five more years, maybe a little more, it could have a modern tram line, a single lane each way for road vehicles, and parts of the unnecessarily wide carriageway given over to plazas, parkland and kids’ play areas.

And then think: if they can do that there, they can do it anywhere. Well, okay, not anywhere, but in a great number of other places: New Lynn, Albany, Pakuranga, Panmure, Manukau, Henderson, Birkenhead, Otahuhu, Milford, Eden Village, Howick, Grafton Gully. Up and down the East Coast Bays and out along the eastern bays, with enough apartment living on both those coasts to make ferry services viable.

It won’t take long. Being part of the critical mass of people necessary to make such urban environments work is likely to become one of the specially rewarding ways to live in this city.

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