Remembering, and reimagining Northcote town centre

18 April 2023

  • Northcote
  • Blog
  • Development
  • Urban regeneration

For long-time local resident David Rankin, growing up in Northcote in the 1960s was a time of fond memories, many shaped by his frequent visits to the town centre.

Here, David reflects on the successful town centre from his youth, providing an insight into the “loss of vitality around retail” in the decades since, while outlining a vision for the future that will “maximise Northcote’s potential for more people, homes and businesses.”

Read the full article below:

Northcote Town Square Render

“During my school and university days I used to be in the town centre several times a week,” David recalls. “We had a large Farmers and a big Smith & Brown furniture store. For a long time it was a very successful town centre.”

David Rankin

David Rankin - Chief Executive, Eke Panuku Development Auckland

Opening four years after the Rankin's moved into town in 1963, the popular furniture store provided the people of Northcote, and beyond, with all their home furnishing needs and was part of a retail destination to be proud of. It arrived with an influx of new retailers when development began on a central shopping centre for the up-and-coming North Shore, after the land was purchased by Northcote Borough Council in the late 1950s.

“Although there has always been an interested and engaged local community in Northcote, what we have seen is that the town centre has very much been left as a creature of previous decades.”


“To think back to those times shows me how much ground has been lost in Northcote’s town centre over the years,” says David. “It’s part of what’s been a typical story across Auckland, with the gradual loss of vitality around retail, leading to a lack of investment going into town centre buildings.

“Although there has always been an interested and engaged local community in Northcote, what we have seen is that the town centre has very much been left as a creature of previous decades.”

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Northcote Town Centre

That was until 2019, when the Northcote town centre Benchmark Masterplan was released after the suburb had been made a priority location for Auckland Council investment in urban regeneration through Eke Panuku. Change, of course, can’t happen overnight and–the obvious COVID-19 curveball notwithstanding –progress has been positive, and is picking up pace.

David grew up on Potter Avenue in Northcote, and was a pupil at Onepoto Primary School then Northcote Intermediate, where his mother taught. Today, he is Chief Executive of Eke Panuku Development Auckland, Auckland Council’s regeneration agency. So he really has an understanding of the area, and a passion to make it the best it can be.

“The opportunity in front of us is to really look at how we get a town centre that meets the community’s future needs,” he says. “That includes the people who are already here and those drawn to the place, as they see the results of investment in the area from Kāinga Ora.”

Eke Panuku is leading Northcote’s regeneration on behalf of Auckland Council, one of many local town centres in its portfolio. The future Northcote town centre will include new shops and eateries, a town square and multi-purpose community hub, a larger supermarket, an upgraded Cadness Reserve and between 800 and 1,000 warm, dry homes.

A recent, though less visible, milestone was completing the acquisition of all of the town centre buildings. According to David, this will enable a development strategy encompassing the entire town centre. “It’s going to maximise Northcote’s potential for more people, homes and businesses.”

In fact, underpinning the more obvious construction work transforming the town centre is a massive amount of other ‘invisible work’ that’s every bit as essential. This includes extensive masterplanning, and close work with other groups involved in planning new amenities and infrastructure: Kāinga Ora, mana whenua, the Kaipātiki Local Board and wider Auckland Council whānau. One such project is Te Ara Awataha, a large portion of which has now opened. Design is also under way for the new community hub that will see the existing library building refurbished and extended.

Northcote Laneway Render

The town centre site is due to go on the market in the second half of 2023 and its development will be guided by an important agreement with the chosen development partner. The aim is to create a thriving town centre for those who live, work and play in Northcote.

Further community engagement will take place this year as Eke Panuku and Auckland Council work through the design stages of the new community hub. This will be a focal point of the new-look town centre that will evolve over the years, just as a living, thriving town centre should.