Bold move into the futureSave
By Donna Fleming
Otahuhu was once one of the most strategically important parts of Auckland.
At just 1200m wide at its narrowest point, it was where Maori dragged their waka across the land to cross between the Manukau and Waitemata harbours.
Today, it's once again a crucial part of the city's transport networks.
It has a flash new $28 million bus-train interchange, which opened in October last year, making it easy to get just about anywhere in Auckland from there.
It's also a short drive from the Southern Motorway on and off ramps, and just under 5km to the Southwestern Motorway.
When developer Shane Brealey, of NZ Living, was looking for a site for a new residential community, he was drawn to Otahuhu because of its transport links.
"I refuse to build anything that is not within walking distance of a train station," he says.
"You can't beat travelling by train. You can be at Britomart in 26 minutes from Otahuhu, it costs $3.85 and you can sit and read the paper or Facebook - it's just so easy."
NZ Living's new development, Mason Square, is just 800m from the Otahuhu train station.
The section it sits on was surplus church land being sold by the Anglican Trust, and Shane immediately recognised its potential.
"It's in the heart of Otahuhu and there won't be a better location than this right in the township."
Shane is a big fan of Otahuhu - he got to know the area when the company he used to own, NZ Strong, built the $40m Toia recreation centre, swimming pool and library on Mason Ave, next door to the land he ended up buying for Mason Square.
The development also adjoins what was New Zealand's first ever supermarket.
"Otahuhu is a bit of an undiscovered gem. It's got great eating places and plenty of retail facilities, plus there's a really good community feeling."
Auckland Council has noted the importance of strengthening the character of the area and outlined improvements such as planting more street trees, installing new seating in the town centre and redesigning existing civic spaces like Criterion Square to better cater for events. "It's just going to get better and better," says Shane.
Having secured the land, Shane thought hard about what he wanted to build. He considered what would suit the area and how to best provide for people who want to make Otahuhu their home.
NZ Living could have maximised the space and created more apartments by putting up tower blocks, but that would have increased costs for purchasers.
"High-rise apartments with lifts are more expensive for people to live in because of ongoing costs - body corporate fees can get pretty high," Shane says.
"So we wanted to do three-storey walk-up apartments and avoid those extra costs. Affordability has been the single biggest driver with Mason Square. We want people to have great apartments to live in, but for them to be reasonably priced."
Maintenance costs will also be kept down thanks to having solid masonry construction with brick veneer, so there will be few painted surfaces.
At three levels, the five buildings that make up the development won't dominate Holy Trinity Church next door.
There will be 82 apartments in the five blocks positioned around a "village green" with fruit trees, a vegetable garden and barbecue area.
Clever design by Kevin Brewer from Brewer Davidson Architects means instead of one central lobby, individual foyers and stairwells will serve six to nine apartments each at most.
Inside the apartments the thoughtful layouts make the most of space, creating generous rooms and including plenty of storage. Purchasers can choose either a light or dark colour palette.
Kitchens will include quality Fisher & Paykel appliances, stone benchtops, tile splashbacks and timber flooring. Apartments on the first and second levels have roomy balconies, while ground floor ones have gardens.
Work is expected to begin in June, with the 50 apartments that make up stage one due to be finished around May next year.