Property editor of the NZ Herald

Takapuna revamp riding brand new wave

An artists impression of the McKenzies Project. Photo / Supplied
An artists impression of the McKenzies Project. Photo / Supplied

Beach-focused shopping complex to take cheap retail strip upmarket

Takapuna's Hurstmere Rd retail strip is getting an $11 million revamp with the development of a new beach-oriented shopping complex after leases were terminated in a swarm of discount stores.

The McKenzies Project is aiming to build on the success of Dave Donaldson's The Department Store in nearby Northcroft St, home to Top Shop and Karen Walker.

On June 30, Alan Wiltshire's private investment business, Wiltshire Property Group, bought seven properties from Strand Investments, owned by a joint venture including global real-estate giant Brookfield Multiplex which had planned a residential block.

The dollar-discount shops on the site had been criticised for dragging down the retail precinct, but the retailers were all on short-term leases with demolition clauses.

After settling the purchase of the 2375sq m site next to its high-rise office block Sovereign House at 33-45 Hurstmere Rd, Wiltshire engaged Hillcrest-based builder Lanta Interiors and Construction to strip out the buildings and create an upmarket shopping, cafe and restaurant precinct, opening access from Hurstmere Rd through to the north and Takapuna Beach.

The multi-level buildings face north, yet that side has been enclosed and used for storage so the new precinct will face the beach, says Ben Wiltshire, Alan's son and Wiltshire's development manager.

The old shops were dark and deep, some up to 55m, had suspended ceilings and building features disguised any heritage value. Yet the site was once home to the McKenzies Department Store, established in 1940.

The original red tiles on the facade have been uncovered and will be a feature of the new development.

Ben Wiltshire said cafes would face a new open-air courtyard in the middle of the shops, where product launches and fashion events could be staged.

Peter White, former North Shore City councillor, now general manager of the Takapuna Beach Business Association, says the precinct is just what the town needs. "This is the catalyst that will help to turn Takapuna to face the sea," White said.

Auckland Council had identified Takapuna as one of the region's eight metropolitan centres in line to receive $440 million in the next 20 years, of which $290 million would be invested in the next decade, White said.

The north side of Hurstmere Rd was mainly in the hands of three landowners: John Copson of Crown Money, the Wiltshires and a family business which owns the PostShop, White said.

"This area is on the cusp of a renaissance," White said.

Jeremy Sussex, Wiltshire's asset manager, said Donaldson's work spurred plans to develop the site without pre-leasing commitments. "Were it not for the confidence from The Department Store, we would not have been gallant enough to do this," Sussex said.

Wiltshire also owns the former Takapuna City Council building, now leased to Colmar Brunton, on the beach side of the seven-shop site and also has longer-term plans for this property.

White said Hurstmere Green, the public space between Hurstmere Rd and the beachfront carpark, would be renovated in April in a $2.9 million civic project. The information centre fronting the green is being demolished to open up the area.

Wiltshire said connections between Sovereign House and the park would then be established, and Wiltshire had worked with Auckland Council in the past two years to plan a softer edge between the block and the park.

Sovereign's ground floor is occupied by Wiltshire and retailers Movenpick, Jam Cafe and Bian Sushi & Donburi. The northern terrace at the back of Sovereign house, overlooking Hurstmere Green, will be continued as a pedestrian link past the new McKenzies' shops through to The Strand, creating a new promenade.

An Apple store would soon open nearby, and White said Auckland Transport had shown commitment to Takapuna by providing free buses to Eden Park during the Rugby World Cup. "We hope now for any major events, Auckland Transport will bring further free transport to Takapuna."

- NZ Herald

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