High-rise resort

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Queenstown is set to soar skywards with multi-storey developments contemplated for a large zone near the town centre.

High-rise buildings up to seven storeys may be permitted on a 2.6km-long swathe of land stretching from Thompson and Man Streets to Bowen St off Gorge Road.

That’s according to a “Queenstown Height Study” tabled at a Queenstown Lakes District Council committee meeting last month.

Five senior QLDC officials – including two landscape architects and an urban designer – had a hand in the document, nine months in the making.

The study investigates “the implications of increasing maximum allowable building heights in high density residential-zoned land adjoining Bob’s Peak/Ben Lomond”.

The swathe of land is split into five sub-zones.

Thompson St/Lomond Crescent sub-zone could mostly handle three- or four-storey development, the study says, especially sites closer to Ben Lomond – shading of other buildings could occur.

“Brecon St surrounds”, as another part is called, has “potential for a group of taller buildings (up to a maximum of five storeys above ground level)”.

There’s also discussion on “a landmark building or buildings” near the Man and Brecon Sts corner – no height is mentioned.

But more than three or four storeys in this block could shade the cemetery and obliterate views from Brecon St over the Remarkables, Cecil Peak and the CBD, the study warns.

Hamilton Rd/Huff St gets a three-storey tick, possibly four storeys. Bowen St sub-zone could mostly handle three or four floors, and a large Bush Creek site could go even higher.

Wakatipu High land gets a mention, tipped for “possible redevelopment for residential or commercial use” following Education Minister Ann Tolley’s announcement of hunting for a new high school site.

But heights peak at the “Lakeview Park” sub-zone, taking in the old Queenstown Motor Park and James Clouston Memorial Reserve on Man and Thompson Sts.

Six- or seven-storey construction is “recommended” here because it “has the greatest potential to absorb additional building height” and “steeply sloping land and cliffs…provide containment and scale for taller buildings”.
It’s also “not highly visible from the town centre”.

And guess what? The owner of the Lakeview Park sub-zone is – you guessed it, QLDC.

Since buying out 100 cabin owners a decade ago, the council has unsuccessfully tried to tempt a co-developer into an apartment complex on the four-hectare $18.4m site of its old motor park.

Two blocks of the planned 350-unit development would soar to six storeys.

Despite the recession putting QLDC’s project on hold, the council evidently wants to have six-storey height approvals in place for when developers come sniffing round again.

There are also hints of QLDC trying to cement a height-limit trade-off with CBD property moguls.

Big property players may mount an Environment Court battle if the only height limit raised is on QLDC’s own six-storey giant.

A covering report on the Height Study claims the study itself was triggered by objectors opposed to another council plan change – some of whom are known to be large CBD owners – who “sought action by the council to examine…the potential for buildings with height greater than the current limits”.

A height deal with major CBD property players could stave off opposition to QLDC’s own Lakeview development plans.

Another council report last month specifically says CBD height limits are being investigated.

“It has been suggested that additional capacity in the town centre could be created by providing additional height.”