The upgrade of Hurstmere Road has successfully transformed a formally tired, vehicle dominated, and low amenity street into a revitalised open, vibrant beachside retail destination that is focused on people. It is an exemplary showcase of a street that has been successfully retrofitted for flexible transition and truly designed as a space that is first and foremost for people not cars.
Hurstmere Road is located in Takapuna, on Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s North Shore. Takapuna is a key metropolitan centre and enjoys an enviable geographical position, with Takapuna Beach, Lake Pupuke and views to Waitematā Harbour and Rangitoto Island. Hurstmere Road is the main retail street in Takapuna and is comprised of a string of independently owned shops supported by on-street and rear car parking.
The proposed upgrade of Hurstmere Road seeks to enhance the retail vitality of the street, drive increased growth and investment, and ensure that Hurstmere Road has the required infrastructure to accommodate future growth. The street did not originally offer an effective retail environment with a lack of distinctiveness, restricted visibility of the retail displays, worn and outdated furnishings, poor pedestrian and cyclist amenity and a lack of visual or associative connection to the nearby Takapuna Beach. Other significant issues included dominance of vehicular traffic impacting on pedestrian movement and amenity, ageing underground infrastructure, and a subsiding carriageway.
Though what may look like a relatively simple and straightforward streetscape upgrade, in reality it is a design that has had to fulfil a complex variety of functions in order to meet people’s needs as places in which to live, to work and to move around. The design required a thoughtful approach that balanced potential conflicts between different users, infrastructure and objectives. The design needed to successfully meet the needs of people walking, cycling, scootering, lingering/ playing, doing business, providing city services, and driving, all in a constrained urban space.
The new design for Hurstmere Road revitalises the street to create a safer, more vibrant, and attractive area for local businesses, residents and visitors alike. It reduces vehicle dominance and provides more space for outdoor dining and events; it makes the street more accessible and improves the retail environment; it improves water quality from road run-off by filtering through rain gardens; it accommodates a growing community and increasing visitor numbers; it creates new cycling connections and facilities; it creates a slow speed and traffic calmed street; it creates quality open space and improves connections to Takapuna’s stunning beach; it introduces new native plantings and rain gardens; it creates a stronger beachside identity; and it provides invitations and opportunities for greater socialisation on the street.
The transformation of Hurstmere Road was the result of working with Auckland Council, the local community retailers, property owners and alongside local mana whenua. Key project outcomes and the expressions of the Te Aranga Māori Design Principles were essential components within the overall design. One example is the narration of atua, the reverence for Papatuanuku, Tangaroa, Ranginui and Mataoho in particular are visible as land, sea, sky and volcanic remnants that are physical manifestations of stories that bind the landscape. This is expressed through-out the project in the form of paving materiality, material palette, colours and native planting.
The new street layout supports retail activity in a manner that provides improved pedestrian access, opportunities for outdoor dining and an enhanced shopfront environment. Level paving, frequent crossings and different surface finishes highlight to motorists that this is a pedestrian focused and prioritised street environment. The creation of a one-way road helps to reduce vehicular dominance, encourage slow traffic movement, and ensures that the street is filled with people. The increased width and layout of the footpath creates an open feel and avoids clutter or obstructions, enhancing pedestrian legibility and improving the ease of movement along the street. The upgrade also provides for a mix of public and private seating areas along its length that people can use to gather, pause, dwell, and enjoy. New street trees, groundcover planting and rain gardens improve amenity and also offer ecological and stormwater enhancement values.
This once undervalued and tired retail street in central Takapuna has now been transformed into a wonderful place and beating heart of Takapuna. The project has set a benchmark on how urban streets can be transformed to perform as social spaces for people whilst maintaining vehicle movement, services access, tree planting and water sensitive design. The overall outcome balances the competing needs in the urban realm but prioritises people and the environment over cars.
Project location: Hurstmere Road, Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand, 0622 Design year: 2017-2020
Year Built: 2020-2021