Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A parkway to Rutland Street - a green way to make Edgeware a vital community hub

Quirky little locals in search of something special for Edgeware !!

So far there have been a number of suburban centre plans, as part of the post quake rebuild. I've seen Linwood, Selwyn Street Shops, Lyttelton and Edgeware and at least amongst these four there is little to impress. Essentially a bit of fancy paving, a courtyard or two, a few building height designations. Clearly planners are working under some sort of budget restraint or orders to keep things low key.

In the case of the inner city suburbs such as Edgeware and Stanmore Road they seem to be planning for the 1980s type road conditions. Opportunities to buy a couple of metres frontage on empty sites were not taken up, despite the chance this gave to provide quality cycle lanes, or bus advantage corridors, or just a wider more attractive street. It is obvious, that a few fancy roading services are not going to stop these areas being heavily impacted by heavy traffic in the years ahead, including traffic trying to dodge impacted traffic on nearby arterial corridors,  such as cars using Colombo Street at Edgeware to avoid longer queues on Sherbourne [even 15 years ago when I had a car,  it was usually faster to get from St Albans to my son's school, Cashmere High School straight down Colombo Street than using the non-flowing smoothly Durham Street one way system!] 

Anyway this city will grow to be 500,000 and then a million people over the next century and Edgeware is sure to be one of the key higher density areas. And if public transport stays as minimal as now inner suburbs will be smothered with car queues most of the day, a combination of their own greater density and people from outer areas driving through them. A vital city centre relies upon quality rapid transit access - but this can also benefit inner suburbs along the way - offering residents fast access in either direction.

Putting Edgeware on busway linked to northern work zones such as Northlands, Airport OR Belfast, Rangiora etc AND to through to City, Addington, Middleton, etc is a superb way - strange as it may seem - to consolidating its central community hub at Edgeware itself.

This because quality commuter public transport systems attract intelligent commuters, in turn better paid and educated and more likely to invest in buying apartments, spend more in local shops, invest time  and energy on local school committees, sports clubs etc. And with less focus on cars streets are friendlier, streets are more interactive, community returns despite the massive destruction wrought by that steel monster the car.

An important face would be the Edgeware Parkway - a beautiful green river of trees and shrubs and facilities flowing from where the busway exits Caledonia Road - crossing Edgeware Road - and enters the area currently occupied by the derelict Edgware Pool Area, a large number of older houses, three older single storey Council Housing Complexes, a tennis club and some tight old fashion streets, before passing along the edge of the Massey Crescent SAM zone and emerging at Rutland Street.  This is an area crying out for redevelopment and in particular some quality three or four storey apartments. These could be built subtly placed in a big tree park like setting as well as rebuilding new council apartments. A new combination community sports hub and recreation hub incorporating outdoor and indoor tennis court, squash courts, a small open air family pool (for under tens essentially) slightly to one side of the present tennis club location, would allow room for a bus transfer station. This would offer enclosed waiting facilities and - east-west meets north-south routes transfers, between The Metrostar and 28 route and whatever mini orbital route replaces the currently unattractive 118 route, and access to a branded high frequency busway route, plus diverse express or limited stop peak hour only buses. Viewed from either Rutland Street or Edgeware Road end it would be a lovely graciously curving high quality sealed busway [only] lane snaking through an attractively landscaped area -  and a few metres to one side or other (or perhaps both) also a similar bike/skate and pedestrian way. 

Buses coming straight through from Northlands or Rangiora and Belfast, would come down Rutland Street, glide through the Parkway and down into the city via Caledonia and Durham Street, large numbers would pass through in peak hours, with the main (18 hour a day, 7 day a week) dedicated buses likely to be electric or hybrid, and articulated , running relatively quietly in these inner areas. Unlike Papanui Road or Cranford Street (still serviced by other routes) these buses would not fight traffic congestion or lights, all roading and signals being in their favour. Rather than "bus stops" they would have small stations with bus door level platforms about every kilometre apart and admission to express buses (by any of the three doors) only by Metrocard (pre)payment to the loading areas/enclosed lounge. Likely stations Rutland Park; Rugby Park; Massey Crescent; Edgeware. With a straight run and limited fast load stops, running times Belfast to city would be less than 15 minutes (at all times) and from Northlands a mere ten minutes. This is where public transport lifts itself out of the 1980s where it more or less is at the present (despite some added high tech features) and creates such a quick integrated movement network, that it really starts ti replace car use. Shopping and services in Northlands, Edgeware, City would vary greatly in style, but all be very accessible, whichever direction one came from. 

Yes,  it would involve the purchase and demolition or removal sideways or off site, of about 10-15 houses. Nothing like the several hundreds now taken for various Auckland projects -  but ALSO avoiding these far bigger Auckland type disruptions in 10-30 years time. There is a lot of knee-jerk about putting people out of house and home, but it is getting a bit passe when most people buy and sell houses every five or ten years, essentially as a form of making money/increasing their wealth along the way. Those dislocated get averaged out current value  and set sum for dislocation (usually $5000 I believe). But if prior investigation identified general criteria of genuine suffering - say for example some one more than 15 years in their house and over 65 who is clearly anchored in that neighbourhood, then social and financial support could be given to either relocate the house itself or the person in the same area. With Massey Crescent - avenues of huge trees on both sides of the road - I find them literally a bit over the top! -  some houses on the western edge might go, but essentially the Edgeware Parkway could pass along the back of most of them, utilising park areas to integrate these trees into the visual grandeur of the Parkway.

The suburban area of St Albans central  has good prospects to be a good solid, socially middling, sort of higher density, medium rise apartment area, with a lovely, slightly quirky  "personality centre" (Bailies Bar is a very solid, classy start to this sort of rebirth!), a local centre not "malled" to pieces by too many same-old same old-chain stores. And with a great community centre/sports hub/bus transfer station somewhere near the current Edgeware Pool site built alongside the gracious curving river green parkland, the smooth Parkway, more car parking nearer the shops. Mostly green and landscaped but including a short stretch of dedicated bus way and separated bike-skate- pedestrian tracks.  Unlike Abberley Park, which is a sweet wee thing of a park, but a little side-lined in location to Edgeware shops,  this Parkway would give Edgeware a spectacular immediately accessible GREEN HEART and relaxation area. Not least a corridor  one linking directly up into areas around Rutland Street, otherwise not directly connected, making Edgeware a far more true centre and village hub of the area.

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