Established in 2013 as a response to the unique needs of a groundbreaking urban renewal project in Northern Glen Innes, Creating Communities is a collaboration of some of Auckland’s most respected and established developers including Arcus Property Ltd, Hopper Developments, Southside Group and Dryden Property Ltd. At it’s head is Murdoch Dryden.
Raised in a state house himself, Dryden has first-hand experience of the issues surrounding ageing housing stock, and so became passionate about providing warm, safe, well-designed homes for those who need them.
“My family has had personal involvement in Glen Innes for many years,” he says. “My grandfather was one of the original earthworks contractors here in the 40s and 50s, then my father was involved as an investor and a developer in the area… and I came along as a project manager and tenancy manager of many of his sites.”
Dryden also became involved with the local business association, and as a consequence became a stakeholder in the early development of the Tamaki redevelopment proposals in the early 2000’s between government and the local community. “I developed a good feeling for what they wanted to achieve and how they wanted to achieve it,” he says.
And that was the genesis of Creating Communities.
Dryden says that the Northern Glen Innes project was extremely complicated in every way. Tasked to build 340 new homes on 57 different sites between the Glen Innes train station and Wai O Taiki Bay Waterfront, the redevelopment was a pilot for the 8,000 homes to be built in wider Tamaki for the next 20 years, under the direction of the Tamaki Regeneration Company (TRC), with approximately 2,600 of the new homes will remain social housing, with the remaining 5,000 plus being sold privately.
“This type of brownfield redevelopment is incredibly difficult to manage,” he says. “Scale and complexity are the two key factors that have to be taken into consideration."
"It’s all very well taking one or two sites in a single suburb, but when that number is up to 50 or more, then that takes the overall development to a whole new level; one that brings in the wider community and changes to the infrastructure that can affect the entire area. Plus there’s the social and cultural history of the people who live there to take into account,” he adds.
And that is something that is crucial to Dryden and Creating Communities.
“What we do is not a cleansing exercise. It’s about integrating the new with the existing population, and doing it in a way that is sensitive to their culture and history. That’s one of our underlying principles,” he says.
One of the ways Creating Communities is trying to achieve this balance is by introducing a mixed tenure model – building diversity into housing so that it suits all levels of the community, from social housing at one end of the scale, through to affordable housing, right up to people who are prepared to pay top dollar to live in an area.
“Philosophically and personally, I don’t believe in putting poor people in one place and rich in another,” states Dryden.
“It’s about having diversity in our communities, which will make for a more balanced and stable future. If we lift the standard of the social housing, we effectively create a rising tide that lifts all the housing in a suburb.”
“I’m a firm believer that if you give people good housing to live in, then there is a greater chance they will treat it with dignity, and there will be a good social outcome as a consequence. This will have effect of raising the quality of life in the suburb, and hence people will want to move into the area and the house prices will increase accordingly.”
At the other end of the housing scale, Creating Communities are equally as passionate and adept at designing and building premium homes. In the Wai O Taiki Bay area of Glen Innes, for example, Dryden says they have embarked on a programme of building a limited number of architecturally designed homes, up to 300sqm on 500sqm sites, on prime waterfront sites.
Attention to detail and a genuine understanding how people live is at the heart of these luxury homes. Light filled, with generous open-plan spaces and a quality fit-out make each one a stand out.
“With these particular homes, we engaged two of New Zealand’s most respected Architectural firms to design each home – Construkt Architects and Ashton Mitchell Architects,” says Murdoch. “And every new house comes with a 10-year Master Builder’s Guarantee – giving the peace of mind that it has been built by qualified craftsmen to the most exacting standards.”
Although both architects have striven for individuality in each house they have designed for Wai O Taki Bay, to ensure consistency within the neighbourhood Creating Communities asked the architects to make a conscious effort to engage in a common and coherent architectural language by using similar materials and forms in façades of every home.
“Creating Communities know this area better than any other developer in Auckland and we have secured the best positions for our new homes,” says Dryden. “We know what can and can’t be built, what works what doesn’t, what problems can and can’t be solved, and have developed the overall strategy for the placement and type of the new housing in the Wai O Taki Bay area.”
Creating Community’s ability to go into a suburb and imagine, design and build homes across the whole housing spectrum is one of its unique and defining skills.
“Diversity is a catch-cry for this development – not just in design, but also in the price points of the properties we build. It’s about the total regeneration of an area, at every level, through good design. And that includes place-making exercises though schools and sports programmes, and generally getting into the community.”
“To a degree, we make a social contract with local community to effect a smooth and sensitive change, taking into account everyone who is currently living in the area. Changing perceptions and changing lives for the better.”
The housing situation in Northern Glen Innes is not unique – far from it. “It predominantly comes down to availability of land – and most of the undeveloped land in Auckland is owned by Housing NZ and or the government; land that is poorly utilised, with 60-year old houses sitting on large sites. With the success of Northern Glen Innes under our belt, there are lots more opportunities for us to take on projects of this scale and complexity.”
Creating Communities firmly believes there is a wider need for a consortium, such as theirs, to help design and build better housing across the whole spectrum – from social housing through to luxury homes – and also introduce more affordable homes.
“We have the specific talents and expertise to tackle Auckland’s housing shortage,” says Dryden.
“We are in a unique position to be able to draw on a huge collective of skills and expertise to take on any project – no mater its size or its complexity."
“Collectively, we have over 100 years of experience behind us, and there is no-one else in the marketplace that can take on what we can do and have done in Northern Glen Innes – it’s the biggest project of its type that Auckland has seen, especially in terms of community, history, and unique challenges.”
You can discover more about the Wai-O-Taiki Bay project here.
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