High-density done well – Rose Gardens nears completion

22 March 2018

The first residents are about to move into this Context designed high-density residential scheme in Albany, Auckland.

The Rose Gardens project has big numbers. The largest residential development in New Zealand when it was signed off in 2015, it has real scale.

Its urban-density score is another big number. The first phase, 200 one to four-bedroom apartments that will welcome occupants in mid-March, has more than 330 dwellings per hectare (DPH). That’s middling for Hong Kong, and just below the density of central Paris and Madrid. But it’s remarkable for New Zealand: Auckland’s average density is 50DPH.

Higher-density housing is a hot topic. It gives us a way to ease our cities’ housing crises without the urban sprawl that begets long commutes and lacklustre suburbs.

On the other hand, some still see high density as something to be avoided. A 2017 article on the trend for apartment living thundered “Is this the Kiwi way?”, and a slew of legal challenges met Auckland Unitary Plan proposals for higher-density in established areas.

We believe that when done well, density works for people, cities, and developers. The key to doing density well is in the details – they must work at macro and micro levels. We’re passionate about those details and Rose Gardens shows the difference they make. And the market agrees: first-phase units sold out quickly.

First the macro-level detail. Buildings are angled to make the most of views across a landscaped lake and a bush-clad ridge to the north. And transport links are good – it’s a five minute walk to the Northern Busway Station, and 25 minutes away to downtown. Residents don’t have to drive for miles to buy milk as there are ground-level shops and a footpath to the Westfield mall. One to four-bedroom units mean a mix of household-types that fosters community development

Communal outdoor spaces in the triangular site’s core create spaces for neighbourly chats. And the developers funded the landscaping of city-owned land that merges ground-floor public areas into the green space of the Albany Lake reserve.

At the micro level, we covered everything from bins to balconies . A zig-zag layout means that balconies – a vital form of private space in higher-density designs – have views but aren’t overlooked. Floor-to-ceiling windows give an airy feel, while double glazing and built-in heat pumps control air temperature and fuel bills.

Bins are stored out of sight in the basement car park where a double-height space will accommodate removal and delivery vehicles. We even tweaked the balcony balustrades to give residents a shelf to rest their drink.

This is the kind of liveability detailing that makes high-density living an attractive, positive choice for New Zealand.