Classy hotel proposal for old Farmers building

By Lindy Laird

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An Auckland company has its sights on turning Whangarei's old Farmers Trading Company building into hotel-styled serviced apartments with an entry on the Cameron and Bank Sts corner.

Still only a germ of an idea, the proposal by development-connected Canvas Investments would see the tired 1930s building turned into a classy boutique-style hotel and retail complex.

Although seismic-proofing regulations would require a total rebuild of the "brick on brick" original structure, the concept presented by the developers maintained the period architectural style, Whangarei District Council economic development manager Peter Gleeson said.

The plan included valet parking for hotel visitors arriving at the front of the building, with parking under the back of the building off Butter Factory Lane.

The council has approved the creation of a loading/drop-off zone on the Cameron St frontage. The developer told the infrastructure and services committee a loading zone was a critical first step, without which the proposal could not go ahead.

Two public parking spaces would be lost but the goods and services zone would be available for neighbouring businesses to use as well.

Representatives of Canvas Investments and SPI Capital, understood to be behind the proposal, have not replied to Northern Advocate's requests for more information.

The development is right up the alley the council's "district living" manager Paul Dell has promoted lately as part of the Sense of Place drive.

Mr Dell said the council was looking at ways to enable businesses to lift the central city's after-hours atmosphere.

"We want to create a vibrant, high amenity, people-friendly inner city environment that retains existing commercial operations and attracts new businesses, young professionals, entrepreneurs, innovative developers and tourism operators," he said in a recent council report.

The council's new Weekend and Night Time Strategy would complement the Whangarei Structure Plan and Comprehensive Development Plan, in collaboration with the business and hospitality industries, the arts and culture community and other interested parties, Mr Dell said.

Mixed commercial use and inner city living was a feature of that strategic focus.

Canvas/SPI directors Murray Alcock and Allister Knight are also connected with the Gloucester Syndicate that coincidentally owned the former Farmers building in central Christchurch, which was demolished after severe earthquake damage.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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