Jewel in Devonport's crown for sale

By Colin Taylor

The Esplanade was built to echo the finest Edwardian age hotels along waterfront promenades in England

The much-photographed frontal view of the hotel.
The much-photographed frontal view of the hotel.

The much-photographed frontal view of the hotel (main picture); an ornate hallway and character dining room complete with chandeliers.

Devonport's historic and landmark Esplanade Hotel, which has been a prominent waterfront landmark on the corner of Victoria Rd since it was built in 1903, is up for sale.

The three-storey hotel, which has been described as "the jewel in Devonport's crown", is being marketed for the first time in more than a decade, by Michael Osborne, accommodation specialist, and Nick Giles, restaurant specialist, with Link Business Broking and is being sold by tender closing on May 2.

The Historic Places Trust grade 1 listed property is owned by Mecca Restaurants' founder Metin Yildiz and business partner Andrew van der Peet.

Yildiz says he's had "a love affair with the building" but it is now time to sell it to a new owner who can take it to the next level.

"It has soul and character and is unique because of its historical significance and waterfront location.

"As an immigrant of 27 years from Turkey where there are myriad historical buildings, its beauty, history and sumptuousness attracted me. New Zealand is a young country so we have to look after these buildings and make them useful for the public and tourists. This is one of the most photographed buildings by tourists and we can't ruin our own history for the sake of progress."

When Yildiz and Van der Peet bought the property it was partially refurbished and they finished the renovation.

"We did it in keeping with the hotel's Edwardian-style interior of high ceilings, elegant, spacious rooms with original windows and a luxurious grandeur that has been lost in most New Zealand hotels," says Yildiz.

Throughout its three levels, the property offers guests a selection of accommodation across 17 rooms and suites, most with views across Auckland Harbour and/or Windsor Reserve.

The hotel has a bar on the ground floor adjacent to the reception area and a restaurant open for lunch five days and dinner six nights a week. The bar and restaurant are open to the public as well as providing service to hotel guests.

To the right of the hotel in the same building is a Mecca restaurant.

Yildiz says recent occupancy figures for the hotel are good. The latest Statistics New Zealand figures show Auckland occupancy figures last year were 73 per cent, up 6 per cent on 2012, and growing this year.

"We are in a strong economy and Auckland is becoming a big event centre driving accommodation and spending," says Osborne.

"The hotel is just a short ferry ride away from downtown Auckland and is a popular place to stay for local and international tourists."

As well as the rooms, the hotel provides a solid holding income from long-term leases to Mecca restaurant and telecommunications antennas on the roof of the building.

Osborne says the freehold property will appeal to a range of buyers from owners of other hotels and bars to people who love historic buildings and have a bent for the industry and want to take it to a five-star boutique hotel.

Van der Peet says the property is in good condition. "The exterior is as it was originally built while the interior has been altered slightly to provide en suites and spacious hotel rooms.

"It is popular for conferences, weddings, birthday parties and local events."

Built at the beginning of last century by the Great Northern Brewery Company to replace the Flagstaff, a two-storey wooden hotel that had occupied the site for several decades, it cost £7000.

Originally called the New Flagstaff, the hotel was renamed the Esplanade by permission of the Waitemata Licensing Committee in June 1903.

As Devonport expanded, the waterfront became a popular setting for sports and recreation and the terms "esplanade", "parade" and "strand" contributed to a readily identifiable imitation of the English seaside resorts such as Brighton, Eastbourne or Scarborough.

Built to imitate the late Edwardian-age hotels along waterfront promenades in these resorts, the hotel's unusual form stems from the square shape of the site and makes good use of the corner site to provide picturesque views.

The hotel's balcony above the entrance, the siting of the lounge to overlook the promenade and the pale coloured plaster facade were also features of the design of English seaside hotels.

The design of the Esplanade contrasts with that of earlier New Zealand hotels, which were built on coach routes to accommodate travellers, not holiday makers.

Few large hotels survive from the turn of the century and the fine, ornate facade of the Esplanade is particularly rare.

This refined Edwardian Baroque hotel consists of three separate, slightly projecting pavilions - one main central portion and two wings.

The identically ornamental wings of five bays and three bays respectively closely echo, in decoration and form, the central pavilion.

Prominent features of the building are the heavily ornamented parapets. The central pavilion has cupola-crowned projections flanking a central gable embellished by elaborately decorated plasterwork, including urns. Variations of these motifs are repeated on the other pavilions. Pilasters, plain or fluted, and double-hung sash windows, with keystones or moulding complete the decoration on the upper floors.

On the ground floor, three glazed bays, one with a veranda, are separated by plastered walls rendered to resemble masonry. Above the middle bay is a balcony, now glazed.

The building originally had two- storeyed verandas on each of the three fronts.

The veranda on the Victoria Rd facade has been entirely removed, as has the upper section of the Queens Parade one. The upper part on the splayed corner between them has been glazed.

Osborne says the hotel is a rare chance for a new owner to bring one of Devonport's most loved buildings up to world-class boutique standard and take advantage of the growing demand for hotel accommodation in Auckland. "It needs a new owner to love and enjoy it as the current owners have done," he says.

- NZ Herald

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