This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on August 6, 2019
Dentist and Whanganui councillor Hadleigh Reid is about to spend $1 million to restore the oldest building in Whanganui's Old Town.
In mid-2018 he bought at an auction the three Drews Ave buildings adjoining the former Cosmopolitan building he already owned.
They had formerly housed a Tupoho budget service and Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority.
There were only about 10 people at the Bayleys auction and Reid had never bid for a building before.
One of those present was Reid's bank manager, who was nervous about what his client might do.
Reid hadn't been planning to buy more central city buildings and when for sale signs went up on his neighbours he just thought it was good they would be fixed up.
Then, in late May last year, he went a public meeting where people from out of town talked up Whanganui's heritage. He went to the auction with the intention of bidding.
"I was starting to get a little bit enthused about it," Reid said.
Then, no one else bid - except the auctioneer, who was authorised to bid up to the reserve price.
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When things got quiet he took Reid into another room, where Reid offered the reserve - $180,000 for all three.
It wasn't actually a bargain, he discovered. Making just one of the buildings operational has a price tag of $1 million.
"Technically they're not really worth anything, but they're worth keeping and restoring."
He's started on the corner building, Ridgway Chambers, and can't wait to get it back to what it was.
It is two-storey and wooden. It was built in 1877, before an 1890 law that required brick walls between wooden buildings, to prevent the spread of fire.
It's Whanganui's oldest central-city building, he said, but not listed in the District Plan.
When restored it will have three one-bedroom apartments upstairs, and glass artist Katie Brown's workshop and display area downstairs.
It will give Brown "street presence" near Chronicle Glass, the i-Site and Sarjeant Gallery.
Reid thinks the apartments will be popular with older people moving to the middle of town and doctors and dentists working as locums. They will boost inner-city living and provide much-needed housing.
If he didn't like living on Durie Hill, Reid said, he would be tempted by them himself.
"It's a nice part of town but it's not noisy."
The architect for the restoration is Elinor Harvey McDouall, who said the finished building's exterior won't look too different, but will have more window detailing and a restored parapet.
The work will be done by Shane Stone Builders and Reid expects it to be finished by January.
"I talked to council first," Reid said.
"The building guys were really good. All the process was pretty straightforward."
Meanwhile, he's thinking about what to do with the other two buildings, which are earthquake prone and are listed heritage buildings.
He could make them part of a package with his Cosmopolitan building, get Government funding, and get the earthquake strength of all of them up to 33 per cent of new building standard.
Once restored they will probably be another mix of apartments and commercial space, he said.