Ex-breast surgeon-turned property developer John Harman does not regret axing a $200 million Remuera apartment project after Covid hit pre-sales and now he hopes to quit the site for $23m.
"We only sold about five or six apartments," Harman said of now-ditched 69-unit St Mark's stage II at 1 Macmurray Rd beside the SH1 motorway. "With Covid, it didn't pre-sell like the first one," he said of the completed St Marks Residences built by Dominion Constructors.
Now, he says he has a $23m offer on that stage II site beside St Marks Residences and he hopes to settle with a New Zealand developer in just a few weeks.
"It's conditional. It goes unconditional in three months," Harman said today of the sale of the almost half-hectare stage II site owned by his Laurent Enterprises and St Marks Development.
Harman performed the first breast reconstruction surgery in New Zealand and set up the country's first breast clinic. He only became a luxury apartment developer after a spa pool accident left him unable to operate.
"I smashed my wrist getting out of a spa pool after a workout in Switzerland. I had a plate put in but it'll never be 100 per cent right so I stopped operating. It was probably good timing," Harman told the Herald in 2016.
Last year, Colliers marketed his stage II property site, saying it had resource consent for an eight-level apartment block. The 4201sq m land is in five titles at 1-1A MacMurray Rd and 4-10a Robert Hall Ave off St Marks Rd.
It has dual street frontages and is between St Marks Residences apartment building and the MacMurray Centre medical facility.
Harman said it was just too hard for him to build stage II and he had other priorities, which included retiring, enjoying life, living in Queenstown and planning a Hawke's Bay residential subdivision at Te Awanga with business associate Tim Wilkins.
Last February, OneRoof reported how Harman reckons his wife Karen Spires thought he was a bit nuts to build another block of apartments, "but the former surgeon-turned-developer enjoyed the process of building St Marks in Remuera so much he's about to launch another luxury build next door - to a total value of $200m."
But Harman said stage II was shelved and today said: "I'm a lucky man. I gave up. It's too hard. It's such a risky business."
He was referring to problems encountered building St Marks Residences and the lifestyle change which prompted the couple to shift to Kent St on Queenstown hill.
Last decade, the Herald reported how Harman planned St Marks Residences as a $70m project on his land, declared a Special Housing Area.
"I'm the accidental developer who has become horrified at the costs," said Harman in 2015, telling of his new career as a developer after establishing New Zealand's largest surgical breast specialist facilities.
Issues six years ago included the discovery of a rock-solid lava flow 2.5m underground, sparking major geotechnical testing, and proximity to the Southern Motorway, which placed restrictions on his scheme.
The St Marks Rd land was then valued at about $20m and Auckland Council granted consent for 79 units, but Harman said he would only initially build 48 of those.
As a special housing area, 10 per cent of the new units must be affordable so four units are being marketed for $450,000: "That makes all the other places more expensive because they're subsidising those. It's ... essentially unfair."
Having the land zoned as special housing resulted in fast approval last decade.
"It took me a month to get consent but I spent a year modifying my plans and interactions with Auckland Council," he said.
After all the frustration and delays, what will he make on the project?
"Ten million to $15m profit. But it's not about the money, it's about the quality of life," Harman said last decade.
Ree Anderson, who was then the council's housing project director, said non-notified consent was processed in just 13 working days after all the information was in.