Shore residents get all high and mighty

By Anne Gibson

The country's tallest new apartment tower is about to open as builders race to finish the luxury multi-level penthouse and swimming pool at the top.

Three weeks before the opening of the $137 million 30-level Sentinel at Takapuna, the focus is on finishing the flashest place for Mike Panjwani, the businessman with interests in India, Singapore, Europe and Dubai.

Panjwani paid $11.25 million for the top spot on levels 29 and 30, four carparks and another unit further down on level 28. All up, he paid $16.25 million and is expected to shift in next month.

But other residents will probably move in before that because Panjwani's penthouse is still largely a building site, its northern face is yet to be closed in.

All the materials needed to complete his huge 675sq m penthouse - including steel stringers for the internal staircase, exterior glass and stacks of wallboard linings - were hoisted up to level 29 before the Sentinel's tower crane was dismantled.

An average house is about 120sq m but the penthouse is about five times bigger and has an 8m internal stud height in the living areas.

Rick Martin, Cornerstone's chief, said the tower would be the last significant high-rise apartment block to be completed in this phase of the construction cycle, before the downturn.

He praised North Shore City for encouraging the project, which he first flagged in 2003. Cornerstone got approval on a non-notified basis because the local authority wanted a high-quality building like the Sentinel, he said.

Now that scaffolding has been pulled off the top of the building which is Takapuna's tallest, workers use the building's internal lifts. Jason Jones, Cornerstone's general manager, said handover of apartments on levels four to 24 would occur in the next week.

Owners of the more expensive units on levels 25 to 27 would get possession shortly afterwards. Body corporate fees are $3000 to $25,000 annually.

But not all has gone according to plan. Last October, people who parked near the site complained of paint and grit being blown onto their vehicles.

Staff from builder Multiplex Constructions were faced with a clean-up task.

Cornerstone hoped the block would be finished at the end of last year but weather interrupted. Jones said out of 200 days building the upper levels, 70 days were lost because of wet weather or high winds.

James Sheriff, Multiplex construction manager on the site, said the tower crane had to cease operating when the wind reached about 50km an hour. A few hours were lost on most days, he said, even when ground-level conditions seemed perfect.

About 20 per cent of the site has been developed as public open area so Cornerstone could qualify for floor-area ratio bonuses to allow it to build so high.

Although the block is not a hotel, it will be staffed by a 24-hour concierge at the front desk and have valet parking.

Restaurants and bars at ground level open onto the north-facing courtyard and glass canopies have been built to deflect wind sheers off the tower's sides.

Level four, the podium, is the Sentinel's communal area. It has a 25m by 6m heated swimming pool 1.8m deep, spa, sauna and gymnasium, landscaped area with cantilevered glass canopies and natural stone exterior cladding, three gas-fired outdoor fireplaces, three barbecue areas, extensive lawns, a running track and large pebble gardens.

Jones said the building had more than was required. "It's got three lifts when it only needed two. There's three barbecue/outdoor areas. The idea is that residents never need to wait for anything."

Jones said only 10 of the 117 Sentinel apartments remain unsold.

Martin, whoalso developed Orewa's controversial 12-level Nautilus, was asked what he thought was the most important news about the Sentinel. " How about, 'Developer lives through second high rise!"'

KEEPING WATCH

* The 30-level Sentinel Tower is located between Huron and Northcroft Streets, in Takapuna.

* Units cost between $645,000 and $11.25 million.

* It was developed by Rick Martin's Cornerstone Group and built by Multiplex Constructions.

* Residents move in this month and next.

GUIDING LIGHT ON THE SKYLINE

Architect Jaimie Simpkin, of Walker Architects, designed the Sentinel to be a dominant structure which glows like a lantern, so he kept all the corners of the building structure-free to enable the tower to take on a translucent-like quality, particularly at night.

In a nod to that indigenous icon the flax basket, exterior metalwork and carpet were specially formed into a woven design. But the cube is the building's main design motif. Square shapes have been used in details from the imported light switches to edges of the handbasins, the shape of the cisterns and kitchen drawer handles.

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