Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

NZ's tallest skyscraper plan for Auckland

The 52-level tower, left, is due to go up on this CBD site, left vacant since the 1980s.
The 52-level tower, left, is due to go up on this CBD site, left vacant since the 1980s.

New Zealand's tallest new skyscraper is planned to be an entertainment hub, sporting cinemas and other amenities to pull the crowds.

A $350 million 209m skyscraper has been announced for a CBD site left vacant since the 1980s when Chase Corporation demolished the Royal International Hotel.

A statement from mayor Len Brown's office out today revealed further details of the giant 52-level monster which is also to contain a top-class hotel, previously speculated to be a Ritz Carlton.

Multimillionaire Shanghai businessman Furu Ding bought the long-vacant site in the CBD for a five-star hotel tower.

Ding's New Development Group is to build the tower, known now as NDG Auckland Centre, on the site of a carpark and bungy jump bounded by Elliot St, Albert St and Victoria St.

Despite New Zealand's growing appetite for online shopping, a large number of new shops are planned and the block will have an eight-level podium with a highly interactive edge.

Aucklanders frustrated about the lack of inner-city carparking could also get relief because the statement said six levels of below-ground car parking were planned.

The statement also alluded to how the public would be encouraged to go into and through the huge new structure and use many different parts of it.

"The new project will incorporate a range of activities including a 302-room hotel and entertainment complex, residential apartments, shopping, restaurants, a cinema and two sky deck areas within the tower structure," the statement out today said.

"The design will also enhance the urban space and connectivity with a footpath link, internal pedestrian circulation and arcade areas, a plaza to Albert St and a podium garden area."

Auckland Council has granted resource consent for the giant which will only be dwarfed by the 328m Sky Tower. A building consent is still pending.

Mayor Len Brown announced details of the tower to the Herald this morning, saying it would be a huge transformation for the city.

"Alongside the Sky Tower, this will be a world class development for Auckland that will create hundreds of new jobs, energise the CBD and boost Auckland's GDP, through a more than $350 million investment by NDG," Brown said.

"It's also an example of the major commercial opportunities created by the City Rail Link project. To date the private sector has confirmed more than a billion dollars of new investments along the proposed route, including Precinct Properties' downtown retail and office development ($300m+) the NZ International Convention Centre ($400m+) and Elliott Towers ($350m+)," he said.


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It's not the first time big plans have been announced for the site though, which has been sitting empty since 1987.

Less than a month before that year's stock market crash, a newly formed property firm, Acadia Corp, sent a wrecking ball into the Royal International Hotel.

The hotel was the flagship of beer giant Dominion Breweries. Its interior was decorated by Lady Kelliher, wife of DB managing director Sir Henry Kelliher, and it hosted the Beatles in 1964.

Acadia planned a $120 million, 32-storey office tower on the site - bordered by Elliott, Victoria and Albert Sts - due to open in 1990.

But after the crash, the site was turned over to carparks as a succession of developers floated and then abandoned their dreams.

Acadia was taken over by Sir Ron Brierley's BIL, which sold the site to Colin Reynolds' Chase Corporation.

Chase wanted to install its retail subsidiary Farmers Trading Co on the ground floor. Above that it planned an office tower connected to Chase's Finance Centre by a sky-bridge across Victoria St. It was to be New Zealand's version of London's Canary Wharf.

Just a few months after Chase revealed its plans, the Government placed the firm's property arm under statutory management, a move that marked the start of its spectacular demise.

After Chase, the site fell into the hands of an Indonesian firm before it was bought by the present owner - Korea's DaeJu - for $25.5 million in 2003.

DaeJu's planned a 67-storey, $450 million retail and apartment complex known as the Elliott Tower.

In a 2006 story privately owned DaeJu, which has interests as diverse as finance, shipbuilding, media, and property, had applied for resource consents to build its skyscraper.

The story said it "had yet to decide how it will pay for the development, who will build it and when work will start. But it insists the project will go ahead."

DaeJu was aiming at the top end of the market. The cheapest apartment of that planned building was to have been about $320,000 and the most expensive tipped to go for as much as $7 million.

That tower was designed by Auckland architect Gordon Moller, who also designed the Sky Tower.

"You get views on both sides, instead of having dark rooms at the back of the apartment and no view," said Moller at the time. "On the west will be the upper harbour view and the afternoon sun and on the east the prospect out to Rangitoto.


The site

* A 4417sq m block bordered by Victoria, Albert and Elliott Sts.

* Former site of Dominion Breweries' Royal International Hotel.

* Acquired from DB group by Acadia Corp.

* Acadia acquired by BIL mid-1987.

* BIL sells property to Chase Corp in 1989.

* Chase sells property in 1991 to Indonesia's Colwall Properties.

* Daeju buys property in 2003.

* The site was sold by Daeju to the current developers.

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