Lower Cuba Street

4 April 2011

With work outside the Michael Fowler Centre and adjacent to Felix Cafe nearing completion, it's now possible to get a better sense of the how the lower Cuba Street improvements will look when they are finished.

The improved crossing at the intersection of lower Cuba and Wakefield streets

The improved crossing at the intersection of lower Cuba and Wakefield streets

Excavation work in the street is in full swing but the footpaths on both sides at the intersection of Cuba and Wakefield streets have been extended. This means there is now more public space near the Michael Fowler Centre and at the bottom of lower Cuba Street and that this bit of Wakefield Street is narrower and easier to cross - creating a more convenient pedestrian link to Civic Square and the waterfront.

The Council's Infrastructure Director, Stavros Michael, says lower Cuba Street will function as a shared space when it is finished in a few months' time. Drivers will be able to enter from Manners Street and park, but they will have to travel at walking speed and give way to pedestrians.

"People on foot will have priority but if you want to drive there to pick up skis or visit one of the other businesses in the area, you'll still be able to."

Anyone who has walked through lower Cuba Street recently will have seen the tree pits that have been constructed and others being excavated. Thirty-six deciduous Japanese birches will be planted in these along with native plants and grasses, and the rectangular pits closest to each end of the street will function as rain gardens. These are planted areas that filter and make use of the stormwater before any surplus ends up in the drains below, reducing the need to water the trees and plants.

Additional underground ducting pipes are being put in as the work progresses to carry existing and future services including electricity, telecommunications and broadband cables. We are also working with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and an archaeologist so anything of significance that is uncovered can be dealt with correctly and recorded for future reference. So far we have found some bricks thought to be part of the foundations of an old iron store established before 1857 and a glass bottle from 1885.

Stavros says there is a lot of excavation work under way but pedestrians will still be able to walk through and get to all shops and businesses. The work should be complete by the end of July.

"We appreciate the patience the retailers are showing and encourage people to keep using this street as a thoroughfare. The contractors are doing what they can to minimise disruption but this is a big job and there is a lot going on in the area.

"As well as the work happening on the street, there has been major demolition work in the old Regent Cinema complex where Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand Institute and New Zealand Centre for Cuisine and Hospitality Excellence will be established.

"Things aren't looking great at the moment but this development and the street improvements under way will rejuvenate this area."