Pocket neighbourhoods coming to New Zealand

Aotearoa is getting its first "pocket neighbourhood." Could it usher in a new way we think about redevelopment?

Lifestyle developments. Is there a more annoying buzz-phrase out there? If so, it’s awfully difficult to think of one quickly – but that’s not a concern for the developers of a new development in Auckland.

A new residential development in the Auckland suburb of Onehunga is will be able to house up to 500 people when the first stage of the development opens in October. Known as Fabric of Onehunga, plan is for 239 new apartments across five buildings, surrounded by landscaped grounds, on a 1.29ha site.

Alright, so that in itself isn’t too extraordinary. But what is unique is the development is what’s known as a “pocket neighbourhood” – an area where apartment living meets shared green spaces in an area that’s already heavily built-up. And it’ll be the first of its kind in Aotearoa.

The site is being developed by Andrew and Tim Lamont, directors of Lamont & Co. Previously, the duo have been involved with the SKHY mixed use precinct on Khyber Pass Road in the Auckland neighbourhood of Newton, which is currently under construction. Collaborating on the development are Ashton Mitchell architects and award-winning landscape architects Boffa Miskell. Five buildings will be located around 7,000 square metres of shared green spaces, in a university campus-like setting. Apartment interiors will include contemporary finishes, spacious interiors and maximised natural light. All apartments will flow out to balconies or large terrace gardens and share access to the pocket park at the heart of the development. The apartments will all be between 57 square metres and 89 square metres in size. The architecture of the buildings will also reflect the area’s light industrial heritage, with buildings wrapped in steel cladding, black joinery and timber detailing. The apartment buildings will feature secure basement car parking and naturally ventilated glass atriums, with pedestrian bridge structures providing access to the apartments.

Tim Lamont thinks the “pocket neighbourhood” concept is a natural fit for a built-up urban area. “We really wanted to create something different with this project and have worked carefully with our architects and planners to create a true community feeling that promotes neighbourliness in urban living – without compromising on stylish exteriors and interiors,” he says. “We see these apartments appealing to a wide range of people from empty nesters to young couples and families. Onehunga has become a very desirable place to live – with vibrant cafes and shops popping up all over the place but also the creation of a new foreshore beach with parks and walkways making it ideal for kids.”

The development comes amid a local push to rethink living spaces. The Civic Administration Building in Aotea Square in Auckland’s CBD will be restored and the surrounding area developed under a new plan that will result in residential apartments in the upper floors with food and beverage facilities on the ground floor of the existing building, not unlike gentrification in other areas around the world. But while it’s unlikely Fabric of Onehunga will give way to cereal cafes like London’s East End, prices for the 82 flats won’t be the cheapest, starting from $545,000 for a one-bedroom flat with a car park space. The first phase of the project isn’t due to be completed until 2019, however, so there’s plenty of time to save pennies.