A consortium of professionals has written to Whangārei District Council wanting to buy an iconic block of city flats that have been spared - temporarily - from the demolition ball.
Almond Court, a red-brick block of six flats on Dent St, overlooking Laurie Hall Park, was to have been demolished after the council (WDC) sold 8-10 Dent St to international hotel chain Millennium & Copthorne Hotels NZ (MCK).
MCK had bought the site in the hope of building a hotel at the site, but earlier this year a group of locals, including architects Felicity Christian, Grant Harris and architectural designer Helen Beran, raised concerns that the iconic flats were to be demolished when there was no guarantee a hotel development would proceed.
Then in April MCK pulled out of the deal, citing uncertainty over Covid. This gave the locals the hope the flats could be saved, but WDC still had plans to develop the site.
However, last week a group of Whangārei professionals, who did not want to be identified at this stage, wrote to WDC CEO Rob Forlong and Mayor Sheryl Mai wanting to buy the flats.
"...in a bid for the Almond Court flats at 8 Dent Street to be retained, I am happy to inform you that there is a consortium of Whangārei locals who would like to be considered as purchasers of the property with existing Almond Court Flats intact," the letter to the council said.
"The consortium's inherent interest comes from the following: A desire to retain these for the Heritage value they add to the city.
"Recognising that no building will be built to the original standard of these flats in the future - native timbers, detailed plasterwork for example; Recognising social heritage of the city; The need for inner city housing stock; Recognising the cost of replacing / building new dwellings is a very expensive proposition in this market - again seeing existing value in the flats.
"It is very likely the flats can be brought up to today's market expectations if a renovation project is carried out on the building.
"We understand the district council has had renovation estimates prepared for the flats and we would be delighted to engage with council to take discussions forward with the view to the flats being bought by the consortium and renovated.
"The question is - will Whangārei District Council sell the Almond Court flats to a consortium in order to retain a piece of Whangārei heritage?"
The consortium hopes the council will answer that question at its meeting on August 3.
Forlong said there are quite a number of parties who have expressed interest in purchasing the 8 to 10 Dent St sites for development.
"I'm hoping that council will be able to formally consider the future use of the sites within the next few weeks," he said.
The Almond Court flats 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.
In 2012, after special consultation, the council identified 8-10 Dent St for the development to a tourist/visitor hotel/accommodation.