The $20 million refurbishment of a Queen St building has created a grand Zara-like ground-floor space ready for a new tenant, although the owners won't say whether the popular European brand would open there.
Wilshire Group is well advanced on work at the eight-level 246 Queen St retail and office premises previously tenanted by fashion chain Factorie and other shops and is bringing what it calls a "hero retail space" to dominate the block.
The Spanish clothing retailer Zara has only one New Zealand outlet at Sylvia Park, snared by NZX-listed Kiwi Property.
But retail experts have long expected it to open further new premises and 246 Queen St has been cited as an ideal location in the heart of the city, offering a large 890sq m of what it calls "flagship" retail with 4.9m of glazing, a 5.9m stud and signage opportunities.
A Zara Australia spokesperson did not reply to a question about whether that business had, or intended to, lease space in 246 Queen St.
The building is opposite Westpac, almost diagonally across from shared space Darby St, in the block between Victoria St and Wellesley St.
A Wilshire spokeswoman said the business bought the building in 2015 from 246 Investments, "part of an investment fund under Oyster Property Group."
The retail/office block was built by Sir Bob Kerridge in 1964 and Wilshire has stripped out all internal fittings from the shops and offices above. The first floor has been removed in the largest retail area to let and the street-level canopy raised to add grandeur and height to its project.
That gives a 6.5m atrium for a ground-floor tenancy as well as a lobby area.
And quick turn-around stock like Zara's would be well-catered for: "additional storage space available, easy loading to back of house via goods lift from Lorne St" are cited in the leasing brochure.
Christine Wrightson, Wilshire sales manager, and chief executive Andrew Brown, showed off work inside the block with entrances off both Lorne St and Queen St.
"We have not confirmed any tenancies," Wrightson said when asked about whether Zara would lease space.
But only two tenancies will occupy the ground floor, she said - the flagship 890sq m store to the Victoria St side of the building and a 41sq m tenancy at the Wellesley St side.
Alaska Construction is the head contractor, architects Fearon Hay designed changes, RCP is project manager, Match Realty is the retail leasing agent and CBRE is leasing commercial space, Wrightson and Brown said.
"In their approach to redesigning 246 Queen St, architects Fearon Hay have seized the opportunity to return the building to its past glory as a mid-city design icon," Wilshire says in marketing the space.
"Strong sophisticated materials including terrazzo feature, alongside the raw concrete of the base structure. A full renovation from owner/developer Wilshire Group in collaboration with Fearon Hay Architects will transform this central Queen St location into a new high-quality landmark for the city."
Office floors from level three to level eight have been stripped out and have a 4.3m stud height.
"Large efficient floor plates have been designed around the central light well by Fearon hay with east and west facing windows, open play layouts, exposed services, new toilets and a high-quality lobby fitout on both Queen St and Loren St," marketing says.
A cardio room and end of trip facilities including bike storage and showers are planned.
The Lorne St area will have food and beverage tenancies, more restaurant-style offerings, Wrightson said, than a food court.
Escalators will take people between the Queen St and Lorne St floors.
Wrightson and Brown said demolition work on the entire project started last August and is due to finish before the middle of next year.
"Now the demolition work is complete, the space has really been opened up, allowing you to get a great idea of the scale of the building and what the finished development will look like," Wrightson said.
"This is a landmark property that we are restoring to its former glory," she said. The building's changes are designed to be 100 per cent of a new building standard earthquake rating.
The office floors are around 1000sq m but with a central light atrium, cutting back the leasable areas.
Wilshire says it is a privately owned New Zealand company which has a team of property specialists to buy and manage projects.