The historic former St Joseph's Convent in Grey Lynn is for sale for the first time in 20 years with brokers marketing it as having "huge development potential".
"The convent has a fascinating history," says Nick Hargreaves of JLL who, with colleague Alex Wefers, has a sole agency to market the property for sale at 454 Great North Rd by expressions of interest closing April 16.
The building with a floor area of 933sqm occupies a 1626sqm freehold high profile site a short distance from the popular Ponsonby Rd retail and entertainment strip.
"We are launching a marketing campaign centred on the building's unique features, its historic facade, its strategic location," Hargreaves says.
"The convent's history on this site dates back to 1917, when Grey Lynn was still a relatively new district. The Sisters of St Joseph originally lived in a wooden convent building but this burned down at Easter of 1921.
"Donations poured in from around New Zealand and in November 1921 the foundation stone of the new convent was laid by the Archbishop of the time. On November 12, 1922 the completed structure was opened debt-free, thanks to the generosity of New Zealand's Catholic population."
The two-storied building was designed by Auckland architecture firm Edward Mahoney and Sons in a domestic Italian style as a residence for the nuns and 50 boarders. The convent was constructed of concrete and plastered brick with a clay-tiled roof.
"It has fine stairways and incorporates a chapel which has a simple arch to define the altar with a coved ceiling," Hargreaves says.
In 1978 the building was renovated including repainting the exterior and interior while taking care to retain attractive original features.
The building shows a mix of Italian and Spanish Mission styles with the internal decorations and finishes generally displaying "a restrained classical Georgian style". The cornices and skirtings are mostly timber.
Wefers says the convent was used to house boarders up until the 1960s when it served the needs of the parish and its primary school until the late 1980s.
"When the old school next door was torn down to make way for a new primary school, the convent and its nuns were no longer needed because the new school was to be run and staffed by lay teachers. As a result, the building fell into disuse for much of the 1990s."
Wefers says the former convent was transferred to private ownership in 1996 and has since been run as a boarding house for low-income earners.
"While many of the larger spaces have been subdivided into bedrooms, little change has been made to the original walls and fittings such as doors, ceilings, skirtings and architraves. Alterations were carried out inexpensively using timber framed walls and ceilings lined with Gib board."
Hargreaves says the property is situated in a rapidly changing suburban precinct with several new apartment complexes nearby and the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan designating the area for terraced housing.
"We have also seen developers, investors and big brands like Bunnings and Lamborghini recently commit to this area."
Wefers says the site has views of the Waitakeres and is ideal for a variety of uses including a retirement village or boutique, character hotel accommodation.
"It is a stone's throw from the city and has excellent access to both the State Highway One north-south motorway and the State Highway 16 northwestern motorway. The area has excellent public transport services and there are shops within 300 metres of the property."
Wefers says the former convent is situated in an affluent demographic area. "Within a 2km radius of the property, almost 40 per cent of households are in the nation's highest income bracket."