People might soon be able to stay and dine in one of Tauranga's oldest buildings.
The Tauranga City Council issued resource consent for a $4.9m plan to convert the Old Post Office on Harrington St into a boutique hotel and restaurant, according to Priority One's latest building consents report.
Isobel Smythe, who is a trustee of the Smythe Family Trust which owns the building, said the renovation would include 10 boutique hotel rooms, a bar/restaurant and bistro.
Smythe said the family bought the building from Grasshopper Properties in 2001 and it was used as office space and tenanted by Ngāi Te Rangi iwi up until now.
When Ngāti Ranginui decided to vacate, Smythe was encouraged by her daughter and son-in-law to open a restaurant and hotel.
"We thought it is a great opportunity for the public to have access to the building," Smythe said. "It is going to be fabulous."
Smythe's daughter and son-in-law, Kim Smythe and Noel Cimadom, owned Cambridge restaurant Alpino Cucina & Vino which operated out of a 1908 Cambridge post office.
When the Smythes bought the Old Post Office in Tauranga, it became a family joke Cimadom shared with his late father-in-law that he would one day open a restaurant there too.
"If it wasn't for him it would have stayed as office space," Isobel Smythe said.
The family had hoped to be open for business about a year ago, but Smythe said there were setbacks due to the age and the historical significance of the building.
Smythe said Cimadom and Kim Smythe had hired chefs for the new kitchen months ago and had to open a temporary business, Clarence Test Kitchen, in Mount Maunganui in the meantime.
Chef and part owner Cimadom hoped the new restaurant and hotel would target corporates, as well as visitors from out of town.
"We are bringing a bit of international flair into Tauranga."
He said there would be 35 to 40 staff working at the hotel and restaurant which would be an 18-hour operation, with breakfast available from 6am and service until 1am.
Cimadom said they had planned a glass and steel construction for alfresco dining.
He said the building had to be "stripped completely" and was currently undergoing earthquake strengthening, with new floors to be put in next week.
"We have always tried to work with the building," Cimadom said. "It is a stunning cultural building which needs to be seen and loved."
Cimadom hoped to be open by spring and looked forward to giving residents the opportunity to enjoy the building's heritage.
"I bet 90 per cent of Tauranga hasn't even stepped foot in the door which is a shame," he said.
Kim Smythe said she and her husband sat on the steps of Tauranga's Old Post Office building a few years ago and had imagined what it would be like to have a restaurant there.
"We are passionate about the history of the place and wanted to bring it back to life," she said.
"Tauranga needs something fun and exciting. It is so sad to see a beautiful monumental building not being used."
A brick from the building sits on her mantelpiece at her home next to a photo of her late father who purchased the property with his wife, Isobel, in 2001.
"He died on the opening night of Alpino in Cambridge. We feel like he is always watching over us."
Kim Smythe said the restaurant and hotel would include the name "Clarence" in honour of her father.
Mayor Greg Brownless said converting the historic building into a hotel and restaurant was a great idea.
"People love to stay in heritage accommodation and with the possibility of dining there too is really good," he said.
Priority One communications and projects manager Annie Hill said the hotel would be a drawcard for people who want to experience history in Tauranga's CBD.
"Developments of this type will also bring vibrancy to the city centre 24/7 and will support the city's retail and hospitality offer."
THE HISTORY OF TAURANGA'S OLD POST OFFICE:
- The style of the building is Edwardian Baroque.
- The original construction was in 1906.
- It was designed to house Government departments, including a courtroom, lands office and customs office.
- Its design is closely related to that of post office buildings erected during the early 20th Century.
- The first postmaster to have worked in the building was C.E. Nicholas who worked between 1903 and 1909.
- The first Stipendiary Magistrate to work in the building was Lieutenant-Colonel John MacKintosh Roberts who worked there between 1840 and 1928.
- The Tauranga Post Office is significant as perhaps the last extant post office building remaining intact in a style which was once common throughout New Zealand.
- It is also one of only a few remaining exuberant Baroque designs by John Campbell which retains its segmental pediments, a hallmark of his work.
- The building is a notable townscape landmark in Tauranga because of both its distinctive architectural design and clock tower.
Source: Heritage New Zealand