Hamilton East, grid, square and parking.

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Grid street patterns are easy to map in the mind. ‘It could be observed in 1870 that cities of rectangular plan were easily taken, while those old towns with circuitous streets were able to defend themselves to the end’ (The Art of Building Cities, by Camillo Sitte, p. 54-55). Because they are easily invaded by motor vehicles, grid neighbourhoods require low traffic speeds and low volumes in order to function safely. To protect Hamilton East, we have narrow street entrances and safer speeds in place. The 2016 Hamilton East Neighbourhood Plan said 14 percent of residents (Hamilton average 8%) walk, bike or jog to work. The 2018 census shows between 10 and 16 percent cycle or walk to work (Hamilton 7%). The two percentages given are because the 2018 Census now counts travel to education separately.

Steel Park (*TeNihihi) is 190m x 230m (43,700 m2 or 4.3 ha), which is five times ‘the average dimensions of the great squares of old cities [which] are 465 [142m] x 190 feet [58m] [8,236 m2 or 0.8 ha] (C.Sitte p28)’. The Masonic Hall, repurposed Berlei factory, ‘Odd Fellows Lodge’, and the Methodist Church on the corner of Wellington and Grey St provide the ingredients for a good frame around Steele Park. A very healthy mix of residential and business give it a true urban mix, including a car parking lot facing it.

*Sydney Square now Steele Park  – ‘Long before Sydney Square was surveyed the land was known to Maori as TeNihihi’ page 31.  Hamilton East: Foundation for a Future City: by Barry Lafferty

The biggest threat to Hamilton East Heritage comes from the car parking blight. We can see this growing in the Medical Cluster area (Beale St) and when a dwelling becomes a business. The City Council minimum parking requirements, force every new development to have above average car parking, which will increase this blight. In 1989 the Auckland School of Architecture** recommended to Hamilton City Council that it should “within the City keep parking lots small – no more than 7 or 8 cars to a lot – so that their size never dominates the human environment’ (p128).

**The Hamilton Report – A design proposal for the Hamilton Central City Area – By University of Auckland School of Architecture – May 1989

Summing up: Grid street layouts, being easy to navigate, are by nature are inclusive. My reading of  Sitte’s The Art of Building Cities is that he is concerned about the conflict between wheeled vehicles, and between other road users, at cross-road intersections. We can reduce this concern by reducing the length of pedestrian crossings, by narrowing the vehicle lanes^ and by adding raised traffic tables, which reduce vehicle speeds. Steele Park being large is great. Minimum parking requirements should not force developers to have more car parking spaces than they want to pay for. Should a land agent see a market for more, that is up to the investor. Parking areas should never dominate the human environment.

^New Zealand legislation states that a “Lane (b) (ii) lane for the use of vehicular traffic that is at least 2.5 m wide” 

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