Five character villas sitting in a row on one of Auckland's most exclusive and well-known streets are on the market as their high profile owner sells up.
The line-up of square front cottages on Franklin Road in Freeman's Bay are owned by top criminal lawyer Marie Dyhrberg QC.
The portfolio of five properties, each on identical 215 sqm parcels of land, have a 2014 council valuation of between $960,000 to $1,070,000 each but similar properties have recently sold for upward of $2million.
The street, which attracts thousands of visitors each year with its Christmas lights display, is the closest residential street to the central city and sales are rare.
Colliers International real estate agent Josh Coburn said the opportunity to buy five properties in a row on one of Auckland's most iconic streets was unheard of.
"It's hard to say how much they will sell for, because there really isn't any precedent for an offering like this.
"We're already seeing strong interest for all five properties, so we'd encourage prospective buyers to avoid disappointment by registering interest in more than one."
Coburn said most interest was from individuals who would live in and retain the character of the properties.
Fellow Colliers agent Kris Ongley said the mixed use zoning allowed for residential or business use.
"A buyer could renovate one of these properties as a tidy investment, a new home, or a small office conveniently located on the city fringe," he said.
Dyhrberg, who has defended high profile cases such as Kahui twins mother Macsyna King and Connor Morris killer Michael Thrift Murray, bought the properties over 20 years and originally wanted to develop the site.
In 2014 Dyhrberg proposed the removal of the five villas for a more intensive development but came up against strong community opposition.
She made a proposal under the Unitary Plan for possible commercial development on the site of the character properties.
In the submission to council Dyhrberg said the villas, used for small businesses, had been modified and had the potential to be developed as a whole to "better serve the property and local community".
She wanted the pre-1944 heritage control removed.
Dyhrberg also submitted an application for a villa she owns on Picton Street in Ponsonby to be rezoned from residential to "town centre" which would have allowed higher density.
The zoning on that property remains residential.
Dyhrberg refused to comment on the upcoming sale or her previous plans for the properties.
Dyhberg's Franklin Road proposal attracted opposition from some with as high a profile as Dyhberg herself.
Broadcaster and journalist Bill Ralston, Franklin Road Christmas lights founder and local businessman Ross Thorby and arts commentator Hamish Keith were all vocal in their wish to retain the villas.
This week Ralston said he hadn't heard anything about the upcoming sale but said his main concern was the commercial aspect "creeping into the residential street."
He said the street has small businesses at each end but they were mostly still in character houses which fitted the charm of the leafy road.
The pre-1944 overlay for all Auckland properties was removed in August by Auckland Council following recommendations of the Independent Hearings Panel.
But two of the five Franklin Road villas are already protected because anything higher would block views to Mt Eden.
An Auckland Council spokesperson confirmed "both 94 and 96 Franklin Road have a natural heritage because of regionally significant volcanic viewshafts and are in the height
sensitive areas overlay."
Andrea Rush from QV said the value of the properties was enhanced by the business zoning and because they were in walking distance from the central city and the restaurant strip and shops of Ponsonby Road.
"You just have to look at sales of properties on similar land size to see the value and there is the bonus that people can run a small business from home.
"Latest figures show the central city has had growth when other areas have slowed."
The Colliers sale for the five properties is by private treaty, closing on March 8th.