The abandoned Kaikohe Hotel has been bought by the Ngapuhi runanga, which plans to demolish the building while it comes up with a plan for the prime Broadway site.
The sprawling hotel had a glorious past - the Queen is said to have stayed there on her first visit to New Zealand - but has since fallen into disrepair. It was declared a dangerous building earlier this year and its owners, the ANZ Bank and Cameron Enterprises, were ordered to demolish it or make it secure by July 15.
Much of the interior was stripped by the last publican, Neal Summers, who now owns a pub in Picton.
The land and buildings have now been bought by Te Runanga-a-iwi o Ngapuhi for $287,000.
Chief executive George Riley said the runanga did not have a commercial plan for the 1.2ha site as yet, but it was a chance to own a significant piece of main road real estate.
It was also an opportunity to improve the town's appearance.
"The mural is quite cool, but the rest of the building is an eyesore."
Mr Riley said the runanga's immediate plan was to demolish the building and grass over the area, which could be used for markets, sports and community events.
He wanted the demolition sooner rather than later, before anyone could be harmed by the asbestos the hotel was thought to contain. The building was made of rimu with possibly some kauri and Oregon pine.
People would have a chance to suggest what they wanted on the site.
The runanga had bought the property as a social investment and a way of improving Ngapuhi's central town, not as a commercial venture.
The closure of the hotel and its pokies had already brought some benefits, in particular for people unable to control their gambling addictions. Very little money came back to the community from the pokies, he said.
Kaikohe Business Association chairman Steve Sangster said he hoped the site would be used to build a community asset.
"Something akin to Kaitaia's Te Ahu Centre would be great for the town," he said.
Artist Chris Wilkie, who is working on a series of murals at Marino Place, said he would like to see a living museum celebrating the town's Maori and Pakeha heritage and offering activities such as weaving courses.
The building was previously owned by colourful publican Zita Cameron. The rest of her Northland property empire was sold in a mortgagee auction earlier this year.