Businesses forced to extend their current lease arrangements in the wake of construction delays at Auckland's new PwC Tower at Commercial Bay will start migrating into the 39-level marquee office development this week.
Monday is moving day for anchor tenant PwC - whose 900 staff will take up six floors in the office block - along with a bevy of A-list tenants including investment house Jarden and law firms MinterEllisonRuddWatts, Chapman Tripp and DLA Piper, who act as the advance guard into the 180-metre glass citadel which lays claim as NZ's tallest commercial building.
Commercial Bay owner Precinct Properties and Fletcher Construction took five years to complete the $1 billion harbour front skyscraper, confronted by the need to also build the City Rail Link tunnels and connect the building with Precinct's other assets, including HSBC House, Jarden House, AMP Centre and the "old" PwC Tower at 188 Quay St.
While that involved working with Auckland Transport on the tunnels, which now thread their way under the new office tower, it also presented the opportunity to develop a three-level retail hub – developed as an open air, laneway style destination featuring more than 100 stores and a New York-style food offering.
The retail centre was envisaged as an attraction for international visitors, but Precinct also reckons it will generate enough foot traffic from the 10,000 workers across its five office blocks and from local CBD residents.
Chief executive Scott Pritchard told BusinessDesk that retail returns for June had been "extremely positive," particularly for the food and beverage outlets.
He said the entry of new office tenants would be staggered across Mondays for the remainder of the year, for logistic purposes and as "quality" fit-outs are finalised.
Fit-out costs could start at $2000 per square metre, meaning that a "base case" single floor of 1200sq m will run at $2.4 million.
The initial mix of A-grade tenants will take up about half the 39,000sq m available space in the tower, "then we have the next wave who are underway in terms of their fit-out now so by the end of the year the tower will be fully occupied," Pritchard said.
Leases are long term - between eight and 15 years - and represented "excellent value", particularly given the innovative, environmentally thoughtful features of the building, including "end of trip" facilities, such as personal lockers, changing rooms and a bike storage room.
The building also features a high sky lobby opening onto an outdoor sky terrace, a "self supporting" glass entryway and break-out meeting suites.
"The intention of the entire project was to provide a premium-grade office tower, but once we started expanding the retail offer it was about knitting together not just the tower but also AMP, the new HSBC, One Queen St and Jarden House, and every single one of those buildings has a connection into Commercial Bay.
"So the expectation is that we will be creating our own market because businesses will want to be a part of this, because it is such a good way to attract staff," he said.
Mark Averill, chief executive and senior partner at PwC New Zealand, said the move would enable the firm to "adapt to new ways of working and ensure the business remains fit for the future".
He said the Auckland workplace would now offer "collaboration and meeting" options of more than 1000 seats across six floors, including "agile" seating areas, quiet work zones and phone booths, with tech-enabled workstation and "experience" centres.
He said one innovation, floorsense, provides an integrated system for finding and booking workplaces from a mobile phone before reaching the office, with "pucks" used to wirelessly charge mobile phones. He said the latter technology would also lend itself to contact tracing and to enact social distancing, as required.
Dean Hall, founder of gaming company Rocketwerkz, expects to move 75 staff into new studios covering the top two floors of the building "sometime in September".
Hall, who recently cut his Dunedin studios workforce from 35 to 15 because of the impact of Covid-19 on the "mid-size" part of his market, moved into the Auckland market last year to develop AAA survivalist games. The smaller Dunedin studio is now focused on the cheaper-to-produce, but lucrative, indie games.
For Hall, it's all about being able to attract the right talent, however, and the PwC Tower fit the bill.
"It's going to be cool. We thought initially we'd have a gym on the 39th floor, the highest gym in the country, but we've modified our expectations slightly."
One Queen under review
Pritchard said while the $298 million One Queen development remained on hold, ultimately it was a question of what was the best use in the environment.
"We've seen uncertainty in the market particularly around border openings, so we will need to look at the office/hotel split so we are assessing what our options are."
He said it was too early to say where Precinct would land on the property, but it "offers a huge amount of opportunity for us".
In reality, the first two floors have already largely been done as part of the Commercial Bay development, so what was at question were levels three through 20. He confirmed the group had been in discussion with Intercontinental Group, as the hotel partner, and law firm Bell Gully, which had taken space for offices.
"We'd still like to be able to provide space to them but it is work in progress."