I watched with sadness as the character office building of Moore Stephens Markhams was demolished on 2 August. Whilst not listed on the District Plan or Heritage NZ as a heritage building, and therefore protected from demolition, it was charming and a nice set of 4 on the corner of Wicksteed and Plymouth Sts.
I met with owners and Council’s planning team this week to better understand the issues that forced demolition and their plans for a replacement building.
Despite investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last few years and having replacement aluminum windows on order, all that was wasted when explorations into earthquake strengthening costs, unveiled a serious rising damp and rot issue within the walls of the building. The high cost to rectify the damage, plus earthquake proofing the building which was only 19% compliant, put that option into an uneconomic zone. Reluctantly the partners faced the unpalatable decision to demolish and start again.
Their new design will be sympathetic to character features of the old building with a similar tiled roof, bricks and roughcast finish, but with modern functionality and design. Our meeting this week explored their new design and restrictions under the District Plan, which weren’t sympathetic to their need for more office space and an attractive street frontage. The planners were able to provide flexibility in Council’s policies so they could achieve their commercial requirements and give a pleasing aspect to the street. It was a win win but highlighted to all of us that if discussions were held before the plans were drawn up, a great deal of lost time, cost and hassle would have been avoided.
People naturally avoid Council as they are concerned at the annoying rules and costs of complying with red tape. However the Planning Department are practicing business friendly approaches to development and practical solutions. By engaging early, developers are achieving better and more affordable outcomes. If you are considering a new commercial build, I’d urge you and your designer to contact the planners before you start drawing up your plans – you will be pleasantly surprised as long as you don’t want a cheap and nasty box!!
I am also available anytime to discuss your plans and help where I can.
Published 26 August 2016