Vinegar Lane addresses the question of how to undertake urban intensification in a New Zealand context. The solution is based on careful attention to Auckland’s inner city fringe: fine-grained light-industrial development with up to 100 per cent site coverage and small lots set into tight street networks. Vinegar Lane is essentially a ‘subdivision’ – the first in Ponsonby for 100 years – but it’s a subdivision based around flexible, ground-up city building on individual freehold lots. It offers an authentic model for low-rise intensification in Auckland.
Supermarket operator Progressive Enterprises took a refreshingly different approach to reworking this important Ponsonby site. A supermarket planned with associated retail units to the street edges, offices above and parking below, would require just half the available area. The other half, surplus to requirements, would become Vinegar Lane – a development of multi-use buildings that would reference the scale and grain of the surrounding streets.
In Isthmus’s research for Hobsonville Point, close attention was paid to the character and qualities of Auckland’s suburbs. At Vinegar Lane, close attention was paid to gentrifying city fringes – areas with a surprising mix of residential, commercial and light-industrial activities – with low-rise buildings, typically up to four storeys, occupying the full site. Vinegar Lane is a 21st-century reinterpretation of this type of development. The new buildings are separate, despite the fact they abut each other, and freestanding on freehold lots. At Vinegar Lane, individual owners, including ‘mum and dad’ developers and small construction firms, financed each lot’s development.
Vinegar Lane’s consent mechanism is innovative. Each lot has consent to construct a building subject to a Design Manual which stipulates the building envelope, development controls and a design review process. Isthmus developed the Design Manual to provide sufficient certainty to enable consent to be granted, while promoting quality and variety. The design review process was designed to accommodate flexibility and individuality. For instance, the Design Manual states that different architects must be used for adjoining sites, ensuring variety. New buildings up to four-storeys high with full site coverage (on lots that are typically just 80 square metres to 100 square metres in area) are permissible. Ground-floor minimum ceiling heights of 3.6 metres ensure a positive relationship to the lane and streets and vehicle access and parking provision is controlled, to ensure active street frontages.
Vinegar Lane achieves high density within a four-storey height limit. The density varies between buildings, but a typical arrangement is an owners’ penthouse split over two floors with two other single-floor apartments to provide income. At the upper end of the spectrum there are up to eight apartments on an 80-square-metre site. On average, it is estimated Vinegar Lane will yield 280 dwellings per hectare (net).
While this model of urban intensification is in keeping with characteristics of Auckland’s urban form, it is not just appearance that is important. Such a pattern also promotes creative engagement because the owners design their own buildings; this provides the opportunity for innovation. Vinegar Lane is adding to the life of the city, without weighing heavily on the things that make Auckland special.
Gavin Lister, David Irwin, Andre de Graaf, Alan England, Scott Donnell, John Broadbent, Sarah Bishop, Haylea Muir, Travis Wooller, Andrew Norriss,
Grace He, Kent Lundberg
Cider Building Architect
Vinegar Lane Architects
Vuksich & Borich