Quake-buffered Ponsonby landmark goes to market

By Colin Taylor

The century old post-office building is being offered for sale fully leased.
The century old post-office building is being offered for sale fully leased.

The historic 100-year-old Ponsonby Post Office building, dominating a prominent corner site at 1-3 St Mary's Rd and the location of an internationally infamous murder, is being offered for sale fully leased.

The March 1920 shooting death of Ponsonby's postmaster, Augustus Edward Braithwaite, is renowned for the accused, 25-year-old Dennis Gunn, being identified by fingerprint evidence on cash boxes and a recently fired revolver.

It was the first time in the British Empire - and probably the world - that the prosecution sought a conviction for a capital crime based almost entirely on fingerprint evidence.

Gunn was found guilty at the Auckland Supreme Court two months later and hanged.

The building itself has a total floor area of 615.06sq m comprising the ground-floor tenancy of 250.67sq m, ground-floor courtyard of 76.6sq m, first-floor tenancy of 224sq m, first-floor terrace of 24sq m, basement storage of 13.83sq m and a mezzanine storage/office area of 25.96sq m.

"It has been extensively refurbished and structurally upgraded and now holds an outstanding 100 per cent New Building Standard (NBS) and Initial Evaluation Procedure (IEP) seismic rating," says Bruce Whillans of Ray White Commercial.

He is selling the property with colleague Henry Thompson by tender closing 4pm on April 4 unless it sells before that.

"This is a beautifully restored Category 1 New Zealand Historic Places Trust building that is fully leased to two well-known national tenants - delivering a total net annual income of $292,040," Whillans says.

Frenzi Group, which owns nine pubs and restaurants nationally, operates the Ponsonby Belgium Beer Cafe on the ground floor; while the Skin Institute, with seven Auckland sites and eight more clinics across New Zealand, leases the level above.

Thompson says consent has been recently granted for a billboard on the College Hill face of the building. "This could add an additional $20,000 per annum to the existing rent roll.

"Due to its prime position at the intersection of Ponsonby Rd, Jervois Rd, College Hill and St Mary's Rd, this sentinel landmark has achieved near 100 per cent occupancy for the last 100 years," Thompson says.

The Ponsonby landmark features one of the few surviving post office towers from the Edwardian era in New Zealand.

"The building was designed by the Government architect, John Campbell, and built in 1912 in an Edwardian baroque style in the same period as the Auckland Chief Post Office, old Town Hall and Ferry Building.

The building's striking clock-tower faced demolition on two occasions and was saved after extensive lobbying by the local community.

The tower was gifted by donations from Ponsonby residents who decided a clock tower would be more suitable than an original dome and cupola above the entrance.

The Auckland City Council is responsible for the winding of the clock on a weekly basis, with its workers accessing the clock via an external ladder.

"This sale represents a rare opportunity to own a rarely transacted slice of Auckland's history at the gateway to some of its most affluent residential suburbs," Whillans says.

- NZ Herald

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