After more than 130 years of ownership in the hands of law firm partners, Napier's historic Sainsbury Logan and Williams building is in new hands.

And good hands, as new owner Stephen Matthews has a passion for the past, having previously restored a heritage home in Plimmerton and owning several vintage cars — one of them a 1927 Art Deco-era Chrysler once owned by his grandfather.

The historic building at the corner of Tennyson St and Cathedral Lane was sold in a deal brokered by Colliers International's Dan Walker and Cam Ward in the wake of the building's owners looking to divest to ensure landlord and tenant separation.

Walker said that provided the ideal opportunity for Matthews to put in an offer.

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Walker added he was thrilled they had found a buyer with such a strong affinity for Napier's heritage and design.

The stylish entranceway to the historic law firm building.
The stylish entranceway to the historic law firm building.

"When Stephen asked me to show him some properties his passion for heritage became apparent straight away."

They took him to see the Sainsbury Logan and Williams building, which has a storied history going back to 1886, which had been owned by two current and two retired partners of the firm.

He was hooked and bought the premises for $2.65 million — which represents a yield of 6.15 per cent on $163,000 annual rent.

Currently living in Auckland, Matthews grew up in Napier and eventually plans to resettle back in the Bay.

He was delighted with his purchase after deal negotiations and said he was thrilled to have the opportunity to help preserve Napier's past.

"The Sainsbury Logan and Williams chambers is a special building in a special location, right in the centre of Napier's Art Deco quarter," Matthews said.

"Owning a heritage building certainly comes with challenges, but the vendors have done well to preserve the character of the building while also investing significantly in earthquake strengthening."

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Matthews said it was crucial that a building has to be functional, and it was important that tenants were able to use and enjoy the space.

"There's a delicate balance between preserving heritage and ensuring a building is fit for purpose, and I'll do my best to achieve that."

The property comprises three separate but interconnected buildings, each with a unique history.

The distinctive building was built after the original chambers, dating back to 1886, were all but destroyed in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake, with the only surviving parts of the original building being the strong room, which was protected by a heavy door more than a foot thick, and a smaller ancillary.

That solid room was a blessing as it held hundreds of land titles and other documents that would have otherwise perished in the fires that raged through Napier following the quake.

The surviving strong room was incorporated into the new design by Finch and Westerholm architects and the building was completed in 1932 and displays an amalgam of architectural elements which has placed it clearly on the Art Deco "must see" map.