Initial discussions with development firms have identified commercial accommodation as the most efficient and profitable use of an under-utilised site for sale within the Whakatane CBD.
Bayleys Tauranga salesperson Lloyd Davidson expects that, if the Wairere St Block comes through this assessment process favourably, Whakatane could be verge of having its first upmarket boutique hotel.
The under-utilised site is a sizeable 3154sq m, encompassing three properties in Wairere St, and it is 'brimming with potential', he says.
"It is zoned for Business Centre use under Whakatane District Council's planning code, allowing for the construction of buildings up to 15 metres high. That's tall enough for a four-storey boutique hotel with ground level reception area, cafe, and parking," says Davidson.
"Whakatane District Council's business centre designation also allows the construction of buildings to be used as a retirement village, medical centre, shops and restaurants, taverns and bars, or commercial accommodation defined to include a motel or hotel."
Davidson says the landholding comprises properties at 6, 12 and 14 Wairere St. The three sites contain two old commercial office buildings and a residential home; all of which are being offered as vacant premises.
The properties are being marketed for sale by tender through Bayleys Tauranga, with tenders closing on March 8. They feature in Bayleys' latest Total Property portfolio magazine.
"The structures now on the site are well past their-use by date and reflect a land usage of a bygone era. They could be let short-term to derive some holding income, but from a long-term perspective they simply aren't viable." he says.
"The town already has plenty of shops and hospitality options; there's ample commercial office space, and the bigger supermarket chains are well established in their city-fringe large format locations. What Whakatane is missing is a nationally-branded four-star hotel facility capable of taking a tour-group sized booking of tourists or visitors."
Davidson says the suggestion of building a boutique hotel, or serviced apartment accommodation complex, dove-tails with Whakatane District Council's long-term strategic plan. This sets out a direction for growing the town's economy over the coming seven years. "The report said our district needs a modern events, conference, indoor-sports and theatre facility."
The plan said a proposed $11.5 million redevelopment of Awakeri War Memorial Hall in the urban centre would enable the town to take on more events, conferences, indoor-sports and theatre activities.
"An improved and more appealing function venue bringing more recreational and commercial activity to Whakatane, would have the consequential effect of bringing in attendees, participants, delegates, and guests to those events.
Davidson says the long-term economic forecasts for the region's primary production sector — for example, forestry, aquaculture, and honey — would similarly underpin demand for corporate accommodation in Whakatane.
National serviced apartment operator Quest has already been talked about as a potential operator for a new hotel on the site, and Davidson says the Whakatane location suits the brand's business model.
"Quest already has operations in Tauranga and Rotorua, so adding Whakatane to the network would form a linked triangle of destinations. Additionally, the location of Wairere St just one block from the town's main street, means it is handily located for guests to access amenities and services in the town," he says.
"And the size of the block would sustain in the region of 30-40 apartments and suites, which again is compatible with Quest's 'boutique' size dynamic."
At present, Whakatane's accommodation sector consists predominantly of budget-styled motels, back-packer businesses, and B&B themed locations. Private holiday home rentals being let by individuals are also counted as commercial accommodation.