Guests at TVNZ's building refurbishment opening by Prime Minister John Key this morning got an idea why the job grew from just over $30 million to $60.3 million.
Technology upgrades, extensive use of bright neon tubes, an atrium refitted in an industrial chic style, a 36sq m three-level giant reception TV screen, commercial cafe, new airbridge, wall art, glass balustrades, new stair configuration and new newsroom for about 130 people were just some of the features on show in the building, occupied by about 600 people.
"Welcome to the newest nightclub in downtown Auckland," Te Karere presenter Scotty Morrison told staff, the board and guests, referring to the three-year changes which saw the building's weathertightness issues fixed, internal offices demolished for a new open-plan style, its marae moved and skeleton exposed, all with a theme which mixes plywood with bright primary colours against the building's newly exposed original concrete pillars and posts.
Joan Withers, TVNZ chair, told the Herald the land and building at 100 Victoria St were now valued at $118.6 million and all the changes were funded internally by TVNZ without any Government contribution.
Withers and chief executive Kevin Kenrick said two Hobson St sites now owned by SkyCity Entertainment Group went for $16 million, an Avalon building in Wellington was sold for $5 million, the archive at Avalon was sold for $9.3 million and dividend forgiveness over a 2.5 year amounted to $32.6 million.
"We paid for it without taking on any debt," Withers said. "In a media environment, we want to make sure we have a sound balance sheet. You can take on debt, but we thought a more prudent way was the way we've done it. The upgrade has been more than just refurbishing the building. Behind the scenes, we have brought a pre-internet building up to the standard required for today's digitally enabled world."
Kenrick said: "The scope changed because we had to make sure the building was safe."
Water ingress through the Victoria St glass facade and on level five needed to be dealt with, he said.
Withers added: "We had to change the scope because these things became apparent. This is an enormous opportunity for us. It would have been very different if we didn't have the ability to sell those buildings to a willing buyer."
At the opening, Key joked about difficulties getting through the building as changes were being made.
"I feel like I've lived and breathed this project," he said, telling how the diplomatic protection squad staff "had to be tour guides because they're the only people who have known their way into the studio."
Key also referred to NZME and Fairfax's merger application and Vodafone's takeover of Sky Network Television, saying people were consuming media more rapidly.
The re-fit and upgrade was by Warren and Mahoney architects Scott Compton and Jonathan Hewlett who said "open and live" were the concepts which dictated design.
They told how spaces which were previously dominated by smaller internal offices had been opened up. Stairs were centralised in the middle of the atrium and they created a newsroom which was visible for the first time from the street, they said. An airbridge above that newsroom allows flow through the building without interruption.
The building's construction dated back to 1985 when work first began and it was ahead of its time with an open atrium and extremely good bones, they said.
New state-of-the-art post-production facilities include seven specialist editing suites and six audio suites. The entrance level has been opened up and is now the central communal space for meetings.
Video content is shown throughout the building via big screens.
Kenrick said staff were now under one roof and although the changes were disruptive, they had resulted in a transformation.