Plan saves threatened post office

By Doug Laing


A major blow for the protection of Napier's world-famed architectural heritage has been struck with plans to save the city's Central Post Office with a revitalised retail and office development.

An announcement from the building owners confirms the iconic building will be retained, allaying fears of removal of the upper floors or even complete demolition.

Fears had been held since the building was deemed earthquake-prone in 2011, sparking last year's departure of anchor tenants New Zealand Post and KiwiBank.

Building owners Waste of Space Aviation confirmed negotiations are now "in progress" with NZ Post and KiwiBank regarding their return.

The building will undergo restrengthening and renovation to transform all three floors into 1400sq m of high-quality retail space and 1600sq m of commercial offices.

Included is opening-up access to the Dickens St Car Park at what was the rear of the building, creating 800sq m of retail space from the former mail sorting rooms, while Hastings St frontages facing the new Farmers store across the road will have windows to the ground.

New tenants are being sought by agents Focus on Property Services, with the ground floor expected to be open again in April next year.

Owners spokesman Gerald Grocott said initial advice following the earthquake risk assessment indicated the cost of upgrading the building to 100 per cent of national building standards would be "cost-prohibitive".

Several options had been explored over the past year, from demolition to multiple concept schemes and detailed engineering assessment, and the owners are "excited at the prospect of breathing new life into the building".

"The Central Post Office is an integral part of Napier's history and we have always envisaged the site would play an active role in a thriving CBD," he said.

"It has been a long process but we are looking forward to the future and site works commence soon."

Paris Magdalinos Architects and the owners are working on what Mr Grocott said is now referred to as an "adaptive reuse project."

He said there is a "collective passion" for retaining local heritage, and in conjunction with Napier companies Structural Concepts and Gemco Construction the building will be strengthened and upgraded "to once again become a focal point" of the CBD.

Architect Nic Magdalinos said the project proves the value of Napier's heritage buildings can be "protected, enhanced and enjoyed by future generations".

"The ramifications of earthquake prone buildings and compliance with modern seismic performance has seen our heritage stock demolished and under threat," he said.

"Through pragmatic design and analysis, early contractor input and dedicated leadership from building owners, Napier's unique architectural heritage can be saved."

Sales and tenanting agent Robyn Burns said the new retail space will fill a gap in the Napier CBD.

The building had the sought-after ingredients to become a thriving retail site, with high exposure and great frontages.

"The high ceilings and retained heritage features will have significant appeal and resonate with brands that set themselves apart in the marketplace," she said.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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