Sports stars, film-makers, business leaders, lawyers, young professionals and empty nesters have bought units, which sold for up to $15.3 million in a $250 million 90-unit Auckland apartment project, its developer says.

Gary Groves of Sanctuary Group, which is converting the ex-Fonterra headquarters at 9 Princes St into the 17-level residential block The International, said some of New Zealand's highest-profile people were his buyers, paying deposits for high-spec units due to be finished this year.

"High-profile sports people, captains of industry, movie makers, business people, those with kids at university... it's quite a cross-section. Young professionals bought smaller units. There's a lot of empty nesters. The target market was people who didn't know they wanted to buy an apartment until we took them to the showroom," Groves said, inviting the Herald to look at the first finished apartment.

New Zealand-born businessman and ex-General Motors CFO Chris Liddell was reported last year to have paid $15.3m for the entire L17 penthouse and although his name was not confirmed, Groves did confirm yesterday the penthouse sale price.


Liddell is now Assistant to the US President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Co-ordination. He has dual NZ and US citizenship.

Groves said New Zealanders returning from living overseas, young professional and people wanting to leave the suburbs for the CBD were other buyers.

The first open home is this weekend on L9 in a 178sq m two-bedroom two-bathroom city-facing apartment with a conservatory off the lounge/kitchen/dining area.

Gary Groves of Sanctuary Group at The International on Wednesday. Photo/Dean Purcell
Gary Groves of Sanctuary Group at The International on Wednesday. Photo/Dean Purcell

These places go for $2.7m to $3.1m, depending on which floor they are on.

Luxury apartment features are:

• Solid Italian travertine kitchen/bathrooms, tile grains matched;

• German Miele appliances;

• Walls of walk-in cupboards;

• 200mm-wide American Oak timber flooring, bedrooms carpeted;

• Internal stud heights of a grand 3m-3.2m;

• Full airconditioning throughout;

• Smart keyless entry via app or sticker;

• Double-glazing for acoustics and thermals;

• Shower slot drain and single-piece stone floor;

• Floor-to-ceiling grand towel rails;

• Full-height ranch-slider windows open to the city;

• Video intercom with two-way lobby communication.

The ground floor entranceway has a three-level-high internal lobby, three lifts and communal facilities are a library facing a landscaped area, outdoor heated pool, private wine cellar, private dining area, 20-seat movie theatre, concierge service and IT support.

Apartment buyers are due to move in later this year. Photo/Sanctuary Group
Apartment buyers are due to move in later this year. Photo/Sanctuary Group

A white exoskeleton will soon be applied to the building which has a restored historic façade.

Buyers can't rent their places out for a few days, Groves said.

"If you're not living here, you can't rent it out for less than six months," he said of the project where places sold from $1m each.

"If you get a tenant, they have to be six months up. All the buyers said 'we are buying into a community of like-minded people and we don't want to have a building that's half a hotel or with strangers in the lift.

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Groves said Sanctuary had pre-sold 80 of the 90 units and would hold open-days till most places went: "But I'll retain ownership of some."

Ross Hawkins of Sotheby's International Realty said today people who had already paid deposits visited the first finished L9 apartment last night.

In January 2017, Groves said the project was due to be finished by October 2018 but that appears to have been extended by more than a year.

Work starts on $200m Auckland apartment conversion

"Q3, levels one to 13 will be finished. End of Q4, levels 14 to 16 will be finished," he said yesterday. "It will be done by the end of the year. We're on time. We just started later," he said of a gap between demolition ending and construction work starting.

An exoskeleton will soon be applied to the building's exterior. Photo/Sanctuary Group
An exoskeleton will soon be applied to the building's exterior. Photo/Sanctuary Group

"We're still to sell four sub-penthouses," Groves said, referring to places on levels 15 and 16, marketed for $6.5m to $7.5m each. Those places are 265sqm to 328sq m each, have 3.2m stud heights.

Dominion Constructors won the lead contract. Alasaka Construction also has signage on-site along with MPM Projects. Australian-headquartered Marchese Partners were the architects "because they've done this sort of thing before," Groves said. Auckland-based Rufus Knight is the interior designer. Groves also named Hanlon Plumbing and Allendale Electrical as key contractors.

One-bedroom annual body corporate fees would be around $4000, around $8000 for two bedrooms, $12,000 for three bedrooms and $20,000-plus for sub-penthouses and penthouse.

The more money you spend, the faster you'll get home and outside.

"Penthouse and sub-penthouse residents will get lift priority access over residents in lower levels," Groves said.

Read more:
See a real estate listing for one of the apartments.

"Ninety per cent of the buyers are owner-occupiers and only a couple are overseas buyers. We've been very careful to sell to owner-occupiers, not investors because it's a premium product and the value of the project is diminished by a lot of rental and short-term accommodation. We haven't sold to any America's Cup people but we probably will because they're starting to look now," Groves said.

Sanctuary added three levels to the ex-Fonterra office block, built by Fletcher Construction. Groves explained how he also squared off 1000sq m floorplates in the hexagonal-shaped block by adding triangles to corners. Each exterior cladding glass pane was 3.6m high and ranch sliders weighed 300kg, Groves said.

"We made the building square. It was ugly. It was a bit '90s so we beautified the structure by adding four triangles on the corners of the building on each floor in laminated timber which is better than concrete. We pre-constructed this. We also took the building from 14 to 17 levels so the top levels are new structures."

Asked about problems, Groves quipped: "More issues than Vogue. Haven't you heard that before? Any construction job has issues."

OPEN HOME: The International, 9 Princes St, Auckland CBD, Sundays 3pm-5pm, Wednesdays 5pm-7pm. No appointments with Sotheby's necessary, viewers will be directed to level nine.