New uses suggested for sites

By Rosemary Roberts

Plans to explore selling or leasing two prime adjoining Whangarei District Council-owned CBD sites for a hotel development have come a step closer but other uses are still in with a chance.

Earlier this week, the council formally approved a recommendation to "look at new uses including a hotel and/or other accommodation" for 8 and 10 Dent St, occupied by the Almond Court Flats and the Forum North Childcare Centre.

Councillor Jereon Jongejans hailed the decision to include hotel development in the mix as potentially of enormous benefit to the city. Councillor John Williamson said: "Just ask yourselves, in 10 years' time will this be able to be used as it is now? The answer is no, it will not. It could be a hotel, but not necessarily. It could be incorporated in Laurie Hall Park." The option was strongly supported by Councillor Crichton Christie.

Deputy Mayor Phil Halse said with parks all down the river there was absolutely no need to tie up a valuable piece of land in this way. The decision came following a mandatory consultation process, which attracted 211 written submissions, 48 in favour, 158 against and three "unstated".

Council property manager Mike Hibbert said more than two-thirds of submitters were connected with the childcare centre, a non-profit community-based operation. The council acknowledged the need for such a facility in the CBD, as well as the concerns expressed in submissions relating to the flats.

He said the costs of maintaining the buildings on the two parcels of land were expected to escalate in the near future, and revenue streams did not justify the extent of capital and operational expenditure. He said the childcare centre paid just $7700 rent a year plus GST. The lease expired in this month. Rents for the flats, never part of the council's pensioner housing stock, were set at current market rates based on the condition of the premises, which were moderate to poor.

"A significant upgrade to replace scrim walls, install floor coverings, modernise kitchens and service areas has been estimated at $260,000. Maintenance and roof replacement at the childcare centre would cost $50,000," he said.

Councillors approved recommendations in his report that both tenants be given a minimum of 12 months' notice before any development of the properties went ahead.

- Northern Advocate

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