A $300 million retirement village for more than 150 people is planned on part of the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind land in Parnell where its 24-year-old headquarters will be demolished.
The foundation's 2.5ha property with three Category 1 heritage buildings spans a block neighbouring Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Graham Wilkinson's four-village Generus Living Group and the foundation formed a new joint venture and struck a 100-years-plus leasehold deal to develop some of the site.
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Wilkinson said two five-level blocks, each to be worth $100m and with underground car parking, had consent on the corner of Parnell Rd and Maunsell Rd. That would bring the first 114 units.
Then, the third $100m block for hospital and dementia care is planned for the centre of the site, now a garden surrounded by car parking and flanked by the neo-Georgian Category 1 Heritage NZ-listed Pearson House at 10 Titoki St.
Apartments designed by Peddle Thorp will be built on about 20 per cent of the land.
Rick Hoskin, the foundation chairman, said it had taken the charity "several years" to carefully consider the best use of the land and Awhina House no longer served its purpose, was not configured with good accessibility and was too big for current needs.
"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make the most of our most valuable asset. Our focus was on finding a way to build a sustainable revenue stream without spending our reserves and we've achieved this via our unique arrangement with Generus," Hoskin said.
In July the Herald reported that the Blind Foundation had purchased a wooden house on the corner of Maunsell Rd and Parnell Rd before demolishing the site and turning it into a carpark.
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The Foundation defended the $8m purchase price, which was nearly twice the property's current CV. At the time full plans could not be revealed because negotiations between the two parties were not complete.
"We waited 60 years to get that property, complete the block and allow this opportunity to go ahead," Hoskin said of the corner site.
Further buildings to be demolished are:
• Nathan House, 541 Parnell Rd, a wooden non-scheduled home;
• The Nathan House extension, built later last century and connected to it.
• Blind Low Vision NZ's cream multi-level head office Awhina House, built only 24 years ago in 1995.
Julie Hill, Parnell Heritage co-chair, said although the development was a permitted activity, she was disappointed about the dominance of the new blocks over the existing Category 1 former Blind Foundation headquarters: "We felt rather sad about the development with the height permitted being right up alongside this building, now the Parnell Community Centre."
Protection to restrict damage from the building work and of trees was some comfort, Hill said, expressing appreciation for being consulted.
Generus will operate the village but a new company, Foundation Villages, is the joint venture formed to develop it. From that, the foundation will get half the profit, gradually ramping up over time, as it completes all three new buildings, to many millions.
Apartment prices will start from $1.25m.
Wilkinson said Awhina House could only be demolished once the foundation's new national headquarters were established in 1500sq m of office space in one of the new blocks Generus will build.
Blind Low Vision NZ has core operations that provide vision rehabilitation services, guide dogs and a talking book library headquartered at Awhina House.
Hoskin said the Parnell Markets would remain, along with many older buildings on the site including the Category 1 heritage-listed Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Main Building at 545-547a Parnell Rd. The Parnell Library, shops and food outlets would also remain.
Some trees will be removed but a decades-old scheduled limb-propped pōhutukawa facing Parnell Rd will be retained. Wilkinson said 17 bores were drilled for geotechnical tests to identify water, rock and other aspects.
Hoskin said some functions now based at Awhina House would move to South and West Auckland, closer to the charity's client base. He cited work with PwC to find the best way "to leverage the charity's assets. This allows us to retain a presence on the Parnell site."
Hoskin said the Government provided less than 20 per cent of the foundation's $36m annual budget "so that's why we're doing this".
Parnell will be the fifth site for privately owned Generus which has the Ranfurly Village and Ranfurly Hospital in Mt Eden, Pacific Coast and Pacific Lakes at Mt Maunganui and Christchurch's Holly Lea and The Russley.