Postscript for art deco Devonport icon

By Colin Taylor

Award-winning heritage revamp of village post office with enticing mix of retail, office and apartments up for sale.

Buyers can have the whole building (pictured), or the apartments, retail or office spaces separately.
Buyers can have the whole building (pictured), or the apartments, retail or office spaces separately.

The historic Devonport Post Office building is up for sale for only the second time in its 74-year history with potential buyers able to tender for either the entire property or for separate options within the distinctive art deco building.

The 1397sq m building, located on a 914sq m site at 10 Victoria Rd in the heart of Devonport Village, is being offered for sale by the Omega Trust through Caleb and Giovanna Belling and Nick Howe-Smith of Bayleys North Shore Commercial, with tenders closing on December 6.

Caleb Belling says the Omega Trust, headed by Devonport residents Eddie and Sharon de Heer, bought the property in a vacant and rundown state five years.

"Working with heritage architects Salmond Reed, they have undertaken an award-winning redevelopment of the building into a mix of retail, office and apartment space," says Belling. "Eddie has really enjoyed the process of rejuvenating the property and he's done a superb job in restoring it to its former landmark status.

"But he's not keen on being a landlord long term. Therefore, he's made the decision to sell at a point where there are still added-value opportunities available to new owners."

The building was purpose-built as Devonport's post office in the late 1930s in the art deco style of the time, and remained open until the early 1980s. In the early 1990s it was sold to Bryan Jackson who extended the building to house the Jacksons Museum, with the original post office converted into a restaurant and later a cafe. The property had been vacant for a number of years before Omega Trust acquired it.

"The building had been languishing, largely unoccupied for some time and needed an injection of new life and vitality," says Eddie de Heer.

Omega Trust's major overhaul of the property included repainting the solid concrete exterior in its original 1930s colours, removing all non-original partitions, highlighting the kauri flooring and ornate ceiling details and constructing a new glazed atrium and stairwell to the rear.

Seven retail units ranging from 21sq m to 72sq m and a 130sq m cafe, plus common areas and amenities, were created at ground level. Three office suites were developed on the first floor along with a two-bedroom holiday apartment, designed to cater for visitors to Devonport, which was completed last year. The original post master's apartment at the front of the property, which had another floor added to it in the early 1990s, has been retained and used by the de Heers as their residence.

The redevelopment also included a major upgrade of infrastructural facilities including air conditioning, CAT 5 data cabling, new electrical and plumbing reticulation, security and fire monitoring systems as well as a web-based music system.

The renovation received the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) 2009 Auckland Architecture Award in the heritage category together with a Registered Master Builders Association 2009 Commercial Project Silver award.

In their citation for the NZIA awards, the judges had this to say: "For many years the value and significance of this wonderful building as the heart and soul of the Devonport community remained undervalued. The skill of the Salmond Reed team and Omega Trust has been to balance the heritage and art deco values of the building with the need to perform an ongoing commercial role within the Devonport High Street. They have achieved this with masterful success. The Old Devonport Post Office has been given a second chance."

De Heer says the restoration was carried out in consultation with a retail architectural specialist, a heritage planner at the former North Shore City Council and the Historic Places Trust. In August the building was registered as a Category 2 historic place.

Caleb Belling says there are several options available to tenderers. In addition to offers for the whole property, tenders will also be considered for the commercial portion of the building, comprising the retail and office tenancies, or these together with the recently completed 82sq m holiday apartment.

"A significant amount of preliminary work has been undertaken to achieve a unit titled subdivision," Belling says. This includes a fire engineer's report, a draft subdivision plan and estimates of the costs of the works, council consents and fees.

"A new owner of the entire property could obviously pursue the opportunity to obtain resource consent to unit title it and perhaps sell down parts at some stage in the future. Or alternatively, the vendor would consider selling just the commercial component of the property, subject to unit titles being obtained."

All the ground floor retail units and the cafe are leased to a variety of tenants, mostly on three to six-year leases. The largest of the first-floor office suites, comprising 158sq m, is tenanted as legal chambers. These commercial units are producing total net annual income of just over $205,000.

Belling says one of the office suites, totalling 71sq m, is vacant and should add close to $20,000 of further net annual rental income, if leased.

The two apartment complexes are being offered for sale with vacant possession. The holiday apartment provides visitor accommodation at a nightly rate of $250. "Thousands of local and international tourists are attracted to the seaside village of Devonport each year, however there is a shortage of high-quality self-catering apartment style accommodation in the area," Belling says.

"This apartment was developed to fill a gap in the market but at present the only form of marketing is the website www.numberten.co.nz so there is considerable potential to grow the income from this aspect of the property. Alternatively, a new owner could rent out the apartment on a long-term basis, with a rental appraisal indicating potential income of $650 to $750 per week furnished."

Belling says the apartment, which is air conditioned and has a gas fire, is available either on an unfurnished or furnished basis.

The large, main residential apartment is approximately 367sq m in size, including a 50sq m garage plus an additional 120sq m of decking, and has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, three large living areas and a rooftop balcony. It has not been renovated but Belling says its art deco decor is in keeping with the rest of the property and it has expansive views over Devonport township and across the water to Auckland's CBD. A rental appraisal has indicated an income return of $1000 to $1200 per week.

- NZ Herald

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