New Zealand's largest private developer and investor, Mansons TCLM, has bought a former Auckland University hall of residence which was re-opened this month as a 321-room backpackers' lodge with summer room rates from $265/week.
Culum Manson said today the business had bought the 11-level Huia Hall of Residence block "as a long-term investment some years ago".
Auckland University had for some years leased the block at 110 Grafton Rd. The building has now become commercial budget hotel Zest OK Auckland.
Huia House Ltd was incorporated in 2015 and its directors are father Ted and sons Mac and Culum Manson. Auckland Council lists the property as being valued at $25m.
Zest OK's advertising said its new standard rates are $290/week but it released the lower long-term summer rate of $265/week.
The catch, however, is that services are restricted to the point where around 30 rooms on each floor share two bathrooms. However, those bathrooms are women's and men's large communal-style facilities with a number of toilets, basins and showers in each area.
As a hall of residence, the university advertised $524/fortnight for a shared single or $806/fortnight for a one-bedroom room.
Not everyone loved Huia: "Wouldn't recommend living here to my worst enemy. Huia is the closest thing to hell on earth I have experienced," wrote one student about the experience of living in "the 11-story empire. Huia was not anyone's first choice for halls."
A university spokesperson said Huia was only ever leased and the building was never owned by it. The university had leased or built significant new student accommodation in the last few years and much of that had replaced Huia.
The Zest OK hotel opened last week and a summer special of $265/week is being advertised as including water, power, heating, internet for an extra $15/week. The accommodation has shared kitchens, laundry, bathrooms and common rooms with a TV on each floor. Bike storage and an outside BBQ area is also being advertised.
Management said the hotel was a youth hostel "ushering in a new era for backpacking in the city." Rooms are either single or double and have fridges, desks and windows with shared bathrooms - two per floor.
"This is the first Zest OK in the world with expansion plans in New Zealand, Australia and Asia," a spokesperson said.
Swiss-Belhotel employs around 12,000 people and is headed by Richlister Gavin Faull. In Auckland, the business manages the hotel at Victoria Park Markets in Auckland's western CBD.
The Grafton Rd alliance between Mansons TCLM as building owner and Swiss-Belhotel as the manager is the second collaboration between the two businesses.
"We've leased the building for 20 years," Faull said today. "People want to be together, have fun. They'd rather buy a good bottle of wine than spend a lot on a hotel. Here they get a secure room with international management and have some fun. We're going to do a Zest in Queenstown as well but it won't be a Zest OK."
Swiss-Belhotel had spent $1.1m refurbishing the building and planned to spend a further $500,000 in the next year, Faull said.
In 2016, Swiss-Belhotel leased a western Auckland CBD block after Mansons TCLM bought and then redeveloped the ex-Victoria Park Markets carpark building. Faull's business leased that as the Swiss-Belsuites Victoria Park luxury hotel with suites up to $2000/night. Faull said at the time that he had struck a 20-year lease with Mansons for the 40 suites with guest carparks.
Faull said in 2016 that his business manags 140 hotels in 120 countries.
Auckland studio suites at Victoria Park start from $350/night, have full-sized kitchens and laundries as well as dining areas, living rooms and separate bedrooms.
Faull's son, Oliver - Swiss-Belhotel's executive director - said double-glazing made those suites quiet, although the hotel was in the busy Victoria Quarter, near many bars, restaurants and offices.