Stripping out Auckland Council’s old civic administration building and converting it to high-end apartments is more than the usual single-building development. It’s the start of a 4-building project which is likely to be the making of the Aotea precinct.
The scene today (photo above): The town hall, former civic administration building at the side of Aotea Square, and the Grand Millennium hotel behind it.
Aotea, for all its civic components, has been a cul-de-sac. It has the town hall on the Queen St side and the Q Theatre beside it, the Aotea Centre for staged events on the other side of the square has been opened up with café seating above the square, the Bledisloe public-sector office building off to the Wellesley St side remains an imposing off-limits shadow, the Sky Metro cinemas along its eastern edge still doesn’t provide ambience on the square, and the area is served by parking for 930 cars under the square.
These components are all disparate, and often the square would be empty. Council efforts to make Aotea Square a place to go to have worked – iceskating, various events, the current “relax” accent – but it’s still been a cul-de-sac. You walk into it naturally from Queen St, but by chance from all other directions.
The impressive hotel on Mayoral Drive – originally the Pan Pacific and more recently the Rendezvous Grand, renamed the Grand Millennium last September – has always been a distinctly separate entity across a busy urban arterial road, with poor connection to the square.
Much of that will change, not through conversion of the council administration building to upmarket, mostly owner-occupier apartments, but through the connections around that building.
When Love & Co director John Love took me through his plans for the development project yesterday, the ideas – especially the interiors & surprise features of the CAB (the converted building’s name) designed by his wife, Josephine – were very inviting, but they were about what makes a residential building a better product.
The second apartment building beside it, current title Greys (the address is 1 Greys Avenue) – will add residential volume, taking the total to about 500 residents. But beside it will be a narrow lane. And splitting the hotel along the Mayoral Drive front will be another lane, and they will lead to a terrace at mezzanine level of the CAB, with retail & hospitality on both sides.
The 4-storey Whare Tapere arts, cultural & performance space to be built between the apartments (with childcare or commercial space on the top floors), the Q Theatre and the lawn on Aotea Square is the feature that made longtime developer Mike Mahoney (Josephine Love’s father) most enthusiastic about this development, for which he will be a consultant: While the new generation’s work impresses him, “I can’t stop,” he told me with a smile last night.
Beneath the whole development will be 3½ basement parking levels for 350 cars, an extension of the 3 basement levels of the old administration building, separate from the 930 public parking spaces under Aotea Square.
Mr Love said wealthy apartment owners wanted parking, though it didn’t mean they would be constantly entering the traffic. Parking hasn’t been allocated strictly per unit, but there will be a limit of 6 spaces for the CAB penthouse (a day car, a night car, a blue car, a red car…).
104 apartments in the CAB
The CAB will have 104 apartments, with the ability to combine units, as was done in the early marketing stages at the 8 Hereford & Hopetoun Residences conversions of the former Telecom & Baycorp office buildings below the Karangahape Rd ridge.
Tawera Group Ltd, headed by Mike Mahoney’s son David, undertook the Hereford & Hopetoun conversions, with the rest of the family contributing. John Love, an accountant with long corporate experience including roles at KPMG & CS First Boston, was Tawera’s chief financial officer. This time he’s in charge through J Love & Co Ltd and the project development company, Civic Lane Ltd, while Josephine Love continues her design input, which is a major influence.
Apartments in the CAB will range from 56m² one-bedroom units to 3 bedrooms & 115m². At $600,000 for one bedroom, the price equates to $10,700/m². Mr Love said the average in the market for new-builds was about $13,000/m². The sub-penthouse floor was priced at around $20,000/m².
The special apartment is this building will be the 600m² penthouse, priced at $14 million, or $23,300/m². It will have a 4m stud height, an internal courtyard and wide city views, but will come in short of the $15.7 million paid for the 525m² penthouse in the International on Princes St.
Still, if numbers expressing initial interest are any guide, the CAB could achieve the construction green light quickly. Mr Love said 250 buyers had replied to the launch of 8 Hereford, and 500 had replied for the CAB.
Greys off to side, hotel will cradle CAB
The second apartment development, Greys, will be a 16-storey tower with a 15,500m² gross floor area for about 150 apartments, on the current parking lot at the corner of Mayoral Drive.
The hotel design has been tweaked so it will cradle the CAB, with a lane through the middle of it to the terrace between that building and the CAB. The design has 7 storeys & 147 hotel rooms of 25-28m². Mr Love said the hotel brands were still being assessed.
The admin building conversion
But first comes the administration building conversion, requiring the asbestos to be removed and the building to be stripped back to a base steel & concrete shell. On completion, Mr Love said, “You will see very little difference in the detail of the façade”.
But there will be new features – double glazing, loggias opening up larger apartments, new lifts. The building’s seismic rating will increase from 67% to 100% of new building standard.
“We’re very lucky that, when this building was developed in 1966, Tibor Donner, the designer (and Auckland City Council’s chief architect from 1946-67) brought over a steel moment frame, which was remarkably modern. It needs some minor tweaks.”
Mr Love said the floorplates were “quite tricky” for conversion because the building was narrow, but it offered long east & west aspects.
“Not many developers do 3-bedroom apartments, especially in the city. But we have a focus on owner-occupiers, and Josephine created a ‘master wing’ containing a bedroom, walk-in wardrobe & ensuite at one end, and the other 2 bedrooms at the other end.”
The design includes large storage capacity in the 2- & 3-bedroom apartments, which Mr Love said developers often missed out or made inadequate provision for.
All units have the same kitchen, “not shrunk for the one-bedroom units – everyone gets an entertainer’s kitchen”.
For the 65m² one-bedroom units, he said, “We’ve tried to create a cool city pad, a study space with an ensuited bedroom. The trend has been with some of the smaller apartments for guests to have to traipse through your bedroom to the bathroom because they don’t have ensuites.”
From experience with owner variation requests at other developments, Mr Love said 3 colour schemes would be offered. There was also a strong preference for natural products – oak floors thick enough to be sanded back 6 or 7 times (compared to some which are the thickness of wallpaper).
Overall, “Josephine’s design philosophy is not to force her design on to people. She creates a palette to make their changes to.”
Love & Co has also brought in Shane & Luanne Cotton as artistic consultants to enhance the cultural & creative elements of The CAB and the whole Civic Quarter, which Mr Love believed was a unique approach for a development.
22 September 216: Mahoneys’ Tawera to convert civic administration building to apartments in new Civic Quarter
12 February 2016: Revised city centre masterplan targets & Aotea framework approved
24 May 2015: Council value capture an integral aim as Aotea Quarter transformed
19 November 2014: Council to consider old HQ’s fate next month
24 August 2014: Family team combines to create luxury at 8 Hereford
14 April 2014: Council staff want 3 months to prospect for alternative uses of old HQ
11 July 2008: Consultation opens on new look for Aotea Square
8 May 2006: Clear South Town Hall options put up, but councillors dither
11 April 2005: Aotea Quarter plan approved
11 April 2005: Success at Aotea Quarter no easy run
1 July 2004: Aotea Quarter cultural precinct plan endorsed
Attribution: Interview & release.