Divine office space in landmark church

By Colin Taylor

Interior of converted Symonds St church building has ornate details and oodles of charm.

The facade of the 1933 building is echoed in the repurposed interior spaces.
The facade of the 1933 building is echoed in the repurposed interior spaces.

A landmark Auckland building constructed by the Christian Science Church in 1933 at 116 Symonds St is being offered for sale by deadline treaty closing at 4pm on October 11, through Murray Tomlinson and Luke Richardson of Barfoot & Thompson Commercial.

"Should investors prefer a tenanted investment, this can potentially be provided with main tenant being an associated business with the building owner," says Tomlinson.

"One or both of the current tenants have indicated they may be open to continued occupancy and willing to negotiate a new lease. As such, the property can be sold with a market lease in place."

Tomlinson says the sale of the building on behalf of the owners, Symonds St Holdings, presents an opportunity to purchase a very special and beautiful property converted from a place of worship to character office accommodation and significantly refurbished in 2003-2004.

"Situated on the corner of Symonds St and St Martins Lane on the southeastern side of the central city, this property comprises a single title of 579sq m of freehold land.

"Following its acquisition, the owners wanted something special to proudly showcase their business, products and services. As a result, the property doubles almost as an art gallery for this world-class publication business."

In its current configuration, the property comprises two main tenancies with a semi-shared entry foyer situation. The net lettable floor area of around 602sq m excludes the circulation corridor and comprises the entry and gallery of 90.1sq m, main hall and offices of 300.1sq m, rear offices and storage of 19.7sq m, first-floor offices of 136.8sq m and amenities and landing of 55.3sq m.

The ground floor has been owner occupied and the first-floor mezzanine office area has been subleased to SHA Architects.

"This remarkable character space now offers elegant office space for businesses looking for something more distinctive and outside the normal contemporary office accommodation offerings," says Tomlinson.

"It could suit a range of community-based operations and would make a wonderful art gallery or theatre, for example. In fact it could appeal to a wide range of professional or service-oriented users and make an ideal live-work owner occupier or investment proposition."

Tomlinson says the building was constructed to the highest standards for its day with quality and superb attention to detail. "The interior is complemented by ornate detail and has retained its early 20th century architectural features."

He says this is only the second time the property, which has a capital valuation of $2.8 million, has been on the market since being built.

"While the building has a Heritage Category B rating in the central area section of the Auckland District Plan, we understand that in essence, demolition of the building is a discretionary activity under the District Plan."

Tomlinson says the property is not listed with the Historic Places Trust.

Richardson says it is strategically located just north of the light-controlled intersection of Karangahape Rd, Grafton Bridge and Symonds St.

"The building's Graeco-Roman pillared facade gives it a unique profile and high visibility facing a busy arterial road city road on the fringe of the CBD running from Eden Tce in the south to Customs St in the north. It is close to the University of Auckland campus in Symonds St, opposite the Langham Hotel and the Auckland City Hospital complex is just across Grafton Bridge."

The site has a 16.1m frontage to Symonds St and a depth of 36.3m.

The property is zoned within the Eastern Strategic Management Area (SMA5) under the Auckland City Council's operative District Plan, which is dominated by tertiary education facilities and related uses for student accommodation and research facilities.

It is also characterised by sites with significant heritage value, the High Court, the Princes St conservation area, Albert Park, the Old Government House grounds and Alten Reserve.

Richardson says the generally high-quality amenity of the zone and its proximity to the CBD make it a sought-after environment, particularly for offices.

"The site is rectangular in shape and, with Symonds St effectively being a ridge line, the contour falls away gradually from front to rear allowing for on-site parking of 13 vehicles in the basement. It also benefits from frontage on three sides as St Martins Lane wraps around the south side and rear of the property, providing access to the rear entry for the basement parking via a security-controlled electronic roller door."

The building is in two main parts comprising front entrance foyer area and the main auditorium behind with basement area below.

"Three ornate timber doors decorated with leadlight inserts provide access to the large foyer area," Richardson says.

"This high stud entry benefits from some superb architectural features such as wood panelling and ceiling cornices. The area doubles as a work room and gallery for the main occupant, as well as providing for additional storage."

The lobby area also provides access to the main auditorium office area, the first floor and to the basement carpark via a staircase on the south wall.

On the north side, access is provided to the circulation corridor that runs the length of the building.

"This would have historically provided access to the rear of the building for the pastor, without having to walk through the main auditorium," Richardson says.

Walking through the lobby area, up a small flight of stairs and through another set of ornate doors leads to the main tenancy area which was the former church congregational area. This large open-plan space is dominated by a central boardroom with partitioning on either side providing separate work spaces and amenity areas. At one end is a lunchroom with modern facilities.

A former podium has been glazed to provide an office or lounge meeting room which also provides access to the rear director's office - believed to have formerly accommodated the church organ. There are a series of small spaces around the building providing storage.

A security alarm system is installed along with a manual fire alarm system with wall-mounted fire extinguishers. Lighting is a mix of contemporary and ornate light fittings through the building.

"We're told the roof space has a 5m stud providing potential for further utilisation and this is something the current owner toyed with," Richardson says.

Tomlinson says that overall the building is in very good condition for its age.

- NZ Herald

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