Some Whangārei architects are upset a "unique" piece of the city's architecture is being demolished for a hotel when there's no guarantee the plan will go ahead.
Whangārei District Council has a deal to sell land on Dent St - also known as the Fire Brigade Hill - to Millennium Copthorne Hotels for $2.15 million for a hotel development on the site.
But the proposed deal - sale and purchase is not complete - means Almond Courts, a red brick block of six flats overlooking Laurie Hall Park, has to be demolished as the company wants a clean site before any hotel goes ahead.
However, Whangārei architects Felicity Christian, Grant Harris and architectural designer Helen Beran are angry that the flats will be demolished when there's no guarantee the hotel development will actually proceed.
They say this is a real possibility as Millennium Copthorne slashed staff numbers, and closed rooms, last year amid the Covid pandemic that saw overseas tourists stop coming here.
Christian said the flats were a unique part of the city's architectural heritage and it would be a travesty if it was demolished and the hotel did not go ahead.
She said the flats also played a part in Whangārei social history as many people had lived in them or partied in them over the years.
''The council should not demolish the flats until there's a guarantee that the hotel will be built, otherwise we'll lose another piece of our unique heritage. These flats are such a good example of an architectural style that is fairly unique and once they are gone that's it.''
Harris said it was appalling that the flats were being removed on a whim when if the hotel did not proceed they would be gone for good.
He said given Whangārei's housing crisis it did not make sense to destroy six flats that could easily be converted into living spaces again.
''Copthorne seems to be closing hotels and there are other plans afoot for a new hotel in Whangārei (the Oruku Riverside Drive plan). For new hotels to be successful you need a venue that's going to bring people in and we haven't got that. You have to wonder if we need two new hotels.''
Their concerns though are too late, as the council has called for tenders to demolish that flats, with the deadline on Tuesday, March 30.
Council's commercial property manager Mike Hibbert acknowledged that many people have an interest in these flats for many reasons including their history, their picturesque red-brick construction around a courtyard, and their setting beside the park.
Hibbert said an agreement was reached with Millennium Copthorne Hotels to acquire the clean site for much needed hotel development following public consultation in 2012 that allowed the site to be used for hotel development.
There are conditions on the sale requiring the purchaser to achieve consents within a certain time frame, to ensure it is used for the stated purpose and prevent land banking.
''This month several qualified businesses have been invited to provide quotes for demolishing the buildings and clearing the site. The closing date for quotes is March 30, and the site must be cleared by July 1.'' he said.
''We have had a thorough assessment of the buildings and the site and there is a small quantity of asbestos to be removed by qualified people as part of the process. The successful contractor may wish to recycle useful parts, but that is up to them.''
The flats at 8 Dent St were initially owned by the Brown family and were bought by the council for a "proposed municipal reserve" in 1955 but became part of council's housing stock.
If the flats had been to continue as housing, major investment would have been required to bring them up to required rental standards, Hibbert said.
The property next door, 10 Dent Street, a villa, was bought in 1955 from the Basset family, to be used for civic purposes. It became Forum North Childcare and Education Centre Incorporated in 1993.
Because of the villa's age and construction, it had fallen below the modern standards required for a childcare centre and would also have required major investment to come up to standard, and high maintenance costs going forwards.
''At the same time as the age and conditions of the flats and villa were requiring choices to be made, the Hundertwasser Art Centre was getting under way, there were plans to bring cruise ships into Northport and expectations that tourism would increase and a shortage of four-star hotels in Whangārei. Council sought permission from the community for the properties to be able to be used for hotel development.
''The proposal went ahead and negotiations began with Millennium Copthorne. In the years since then the childcare centre has moved to a purpose built facility on Riverside Dr. The tenants of the six Amber Court flats have found new accommodation and the flats have been empty since Christmas last year."
He said the sale and purchase is not complete, but in the meantime council had noticed people trying to break into the buildings.
''Given that the flats will be going one way or the other, we could see a benefit in clearing the site as soon as possible.''