Plans to convert Auckland's Civic Administration Building into apartments is causing a stir over how to keep the original features of the Category A historic building.

Developer John Love and heritage experts are grappling with replacing the facade of the city's first skyscraper, regarded as a fine example of modernist architecture.

Groups like Heritage New Zealand, Auckland's Character Coalition and the Civic Trust want to keep as much of the original facade as possible.

Julia Gatley, a senior lecturer at Auckland University and authority on modern architecture in New Zealand, is also keen to retain as much of the original features as possible but said it was known from the outset "there is going to be quite substantial loss of the heritage fabric because of the condition it is in".

Advertisement

She said the Civic, designed in the 1950s and completed in 1966, introduced new technology to New Zealand at the time and become an important landmark and civic centre for the city.

Love has been working on the project since September 2016 when Panuku Development Auckland chose Tawera Group to convert the building into apartments as part of a wider $200 million to $300m project on land between Mayoral Drive, Greys Ave and Aotea Square.

In January, Love said sales of apartments had been affected by things like last year's general elections, but he has recently advertised that construction will start next month.

Love told the Herald today that the building was "knackered", but ultimately it the best outcome for everyone was to save it. The building contains asbestos, which needs removing and suffers other problems, he said.

"Adaptive reuse is the only way to save it," Love said.

The council has confirmed that work on replacing the facade is going ahead under an existing resource consent issued to Civic Lane Ltd - whose sole director is John Love - in April last year. The applicant is working with council heritage and building facade specialists on the replacement facade, the council said.

Some sources said the changes need a new resource consent to shine a public spotlight on the process.

A member of council's heritage advisory panel, Allan Matson, said the Civic was a category A building and changes to the facade should be publicly notified.

"I have been privy to conversations which give me cause for concern. I have raised this issue at the heritage advisory panel and the only answer I got was to go back and look at the consent application, which didn't give me much confidence, said Matson, who is a member of the Civic Trust.

The Civic Trust seeks to preserve heritage buildings and not linked to the Civic Administration Building.

READ MORE

Apartment and hotel plans for Aotea Square announced
Bid to save NZ's first skyscraper
Value of Aotea Square edge project put at $500m

Character Coalition spokeswoman Sally Hughes said the group was extremely concerned about the changes because it was a Category A building and the external look of the Civic building made it historic.

She said the coalition would be very concerned if the council allowed the integrity of the original design and look of the building to be compromised.

Heritage New Zealand conservation architect Robin Byron said making the curtain wall facade meet modern building standards was a challenge, but the replacement should look the same.

She said the national heritage body had not had an update on the project for quite some time but was getting an update from heritage consultants in the next week.

Love is using building restoration architects Salmond Reed, who Gatley said she trusted to be arguing for the best possible outcomes for the building.