Te Aro history in Victoria Street pavers

29 May 2015

Concrete pavers being laid now in Victoria Street will give people a feel for how things used to be by roughly showing where early cottages and outbuildings once stood.

Tiler laying concrete pavers in Victoria Street. There are dark grey and lighter pavers going down. The darker ones show where original cottages and outbuildings once stood.

The darker pavers in Victoria Street will show where original cottages and outbuildings once stood

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Original city maps, created by surveyor Thomas Ward in the late 1880s, have been used to help devise the paving pattern, using darker pavers to show the building footprints.

The patterns will depict the locations of eight houses and adjacent outbuildings – some in and around the new triangular park adjacent to Tommy’s and others at Volunteer Corner.

Like much of the city centre, the area was originally sub-divided and sold off in acre lots from 1839. There was lots of open space at first but as the population grew, so did demand for Te Aro’s highly prized flat land close to the harbour.

More and more cottages were built on the acre lots, along with numerous little tracks and lane ways to get to them. So many in fact, that parts of the densely populated area and its labyrinth of little streets eventually became a slum.

Victoria Street as we know it today didn’t exist. It was created in sections in the 1970s and 1980s following a clearance and redevelopment programme that began after World War II. The new alignment involved the amalgamation of several streets and lane ways, including Cumberland Place, which was originally named Victoria Place.

The part of Victoria Street that is being transformed now – Dixon to Abel Smith streets – passes through seven of the city’s original one-acre lots.

In the immediate vicinity were more than 50 nineteenth-century houses – mostly two-storey timber cottages – and adjoining outbuildings, including stables, washhouses, long-drop toilets, sheds and chicken coops.

Also in the area were the Unitarian Church near Vivian Street, schools (St Peter’s Schoolroom and adjacent Te Aro Infants’ School) and commercial and industrial premises including a glassmakers, foundry, brewery and plasterer.

Councillor Andy Foster, who chairs the Council’s Transport and Urban Development Committee, says the history is interesting because Victoria Street is once again destined to be an area where a lot more people will soon live and study.

“The street’s close proximity to the city centre, Cuba Street and waterfront will make it a very desirable place to live.”

Cr Foster says one apartment complex is already going up in the area and planning is well advanced for another large residential development adjacent to St Peter’s Church.

Over time the Council expects there to be more than 1100 new apartments housing at least 2500 people in this area and an additional 37,000 sqm of new commercial space. A new Whitireia and WelTec campus for more than 1000 students is also planned for a large site fronting Cuba, Dixon and Victoria streets.

“Victoria Street is one of the parts of the city that we have earmarked for growth and where we are very keen to see more residential development happen. It’s why we are investing here, coordinating the upgrade of underground services and transforming this neighbourhood.

“Victoria Street’s primary function for more than 30 years has been all about cars. It’s still going to be an important transport route but we’re making it a great place for people to pass through and spend time too.”

The wider tree-lined footpaths, new paved parks and southbound cycle lane are on schedule to be completed by early July.

Cr Foster says the Council has worked with the Memorial Park Alliance to complete the work as quickly as possible.

“A project of this magnitude would have taken more than a year to complete using a more traditional methodology but has been fast-tracked and done in seven months to reduce the construction period.”

“There’s obviously a huge amount going on at the moment, which is hard on everyone putting up with the noise, disruption and detours,” he says. “The good news is the work will be finished in just a few weeks and this neighbourhood will benefit from the investment we are making here. We believe it will be one of the catalysts for more private sector improvements.”

Find out more about the Victoria Street transformation project.