Auckland Council will use its built heritage acquisition fund for the first time to refurbish the historic Wong Doo building (1884-85) at the corner of Hobson & Cook Sts and Airedale Cottages (1856) on Airedale St in the cbd.
The battle for the Wong Doo building was itself becoming historic – dating back to 2005, when councillors on the old Auckland City Council made a clear statement that the rules on knocking down old buildings had changed, even if consents for demolition & construction were in place.
Dae Ju Developments Co Ltd (now KNZ International Co Ltd, a sister company to the present developer, KNC Construction Ltd) was given the blunt option at a council planning fixtures committee meeting in April 2005: Agree to hold off & consider incorporating existing buildings in the new development, or have the application publicly notified.
Former city planner John Childs, acting for Dae Ju, chose the defer-&-consider option. He’d arrived at the council committee meeting unaware that heritage campaigner Allan Matson had asked the council 3 months earlier to instigate a plan change to schedule the buildings at 152-160 Hobson St, for which Dae Ju won demolition consent in 2004.
Dae Ju had intended to build linked twin apartment towers but, after striking Mr Matson’s heritage campaign, went on to build only the first 18-storey Fiore apartment building. The Korean-owned company was allowed to demolish a row of Edwardian shops to make way for the first 120-unit Fiore on Hobson apartments, and used the Canvas City building as a base for its construction team.
The Wong Doo building – last occupant Canvas City – will return to its dual retail & residential roots, at the foot of the second Fiore apartment building.
KNC Construction Ltd chief executive Ben Lee said the building would add unique character & value to the company’s planned Hobson Fiore II shopping & residential complex: “We did buy the building initially with the intention of pulling it down and starting from scratch, but we are very happy with this joint venture with Auckland Council and what we will be able to offer both residential & retail tenants.”
The Wong Doo building previously held a textile & fireworks business run by Chinese community figure Thomas Wong Doo and was a hub for the local Chinese community in the mid-20th century.
Historic Places Trust’s northern general manager Sherry Reynolds said both the Wong Doo building and the Airedale cottages were an important part of the heritage landscape of Auckland’s city centre: “The Wong Doo building dates back to the 1880s and has particular significance for its strong connections with the Chinese community over the past century through the Wong Doo family.
“The Airedale cottages are also important as rare examples of mid-19th century workers’ housing in central Auckland dating back to the first 20 years of the city’s foundation – which makes them particularly special.
“The Historic Places Trust is pleased that a very positive heritage outcome has been achieved for these 2 heritage buildings, and congratulates the council for its strong leadership both in developing the built heritage acquisition fund and making the decision to invest funds into these 2 very significant buildings.”
The council established the acquisition fund in 2011 to acquire at-risk heritage buildings and other built features that might suffer from destruction by neglect, with the intention of restoring and then onselling them. Under the fund, the council can acquire at-risk buildings, restore them or ensure they are restored, then onsell them with legal protection in place after a short-term hold.
Various buildings in inner-city, suburban & maritime settings are under consideration for support from this fund, which was started with $10 million in 2011 and accumulates a further $2.9 million/year.
Mayor Len Brown said after the council’s parks, recreation & heritage forum made the funding decision this week: “This is an excellent outcome for the first use of the fund. We are saving a piece of Auckland history as part of a project which will inject new investment, retail & residential use into an area which needs revitalisation.”
Forum chairwoman Sandra Coney said the 2 buildings would contribute great character to their neighbourhoods” “They are good demonstrations of the role that restored heritage buildings have to play in providing a rich urban landscape and adding to our quality of life.
“This is one tool the council has to address Auckland’s all-too-common problem of heritage demolition by neglect, when owners don’t have the inclination – or far more commonly, the funds – to restore buildings which are important parts of Auckland’s history.”
Attribution: Council release, photos & background by Bob Dey.