Find moving house daunting? Then imagine moving the equivalent of Alexandra or Cromwell's entire population.
Thousands of Auckland workers in some of the city's biggest financial services and legal businesses are about to move from one office to another, starting in the next few weeks and carrying on into winter.
Scott Pritchard, chief executive of Precinct Properties which is about to open the $1b PwC Tower in its Commercial Bay project, said a new record could be set when up to 6000 workers move around various Precinct towers from April to August.
And Culum Manson of Mansons TCLM is about to move 240 law firm staff at Meredith Connell and more than 600 2degrees workers from Newmarket to the central city.
Pritchard described the mammoth task ahead as those thousands shuffle out of their old buildings for fancy new digs, many with million-dollar waterfront views and state-of-the-art buildings.
"In the next six months, there will be movement across 60,000sq m of [Precinct] office space which will become a merry-go-round. Between 5000 and 6000 people will shift," Pritchard said after announcing Precinct's half-year result where it leased 17,000sq m of space during just six months, much of it to tech businesses.
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All move between Auckland Precinct buildings. That doesn't take into account other big corporate shifts going on simultaneously.
About 3200 are moving into the new PwC tower between Quay St, Lower Albert St and Queen St, about to enjoy unparalleled harbour views from a 40-level tower whose services are hung on the back opposite the sea to give unimpeded vistas.
The other 2800 people will move into other Precinct buildings like the existing PwC on Quay St which has long held a prime position in the commercial office market.
And just as some businesses empty from that 29-level block, others will shift into it.
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With the good comes some bad. Waterfront views from many of the Albert St Quay West apartments are now blocked by the new PwC Tower. Instead of the apartment residents getting the buzz of sunlight sparkling on the water, newly-arrived office workers will be able gaze across the sea as they do their corporate waltz, show off the new workspace to family and friends, get all-day sun from north-facing pozzies, dine below at the stylish new Hudson River-inspired Harbour Eats, spend at biggest inner-city shopping centre - and opposite the city's main transport hub, Britomart.
Precinct will accommodate the biggest concentration of kiwi office workers - about 10,000 people - in five neighbouring towers on two blocks:
• the new 40-level PwC Tower, Commercial Bay;
• existing 29-level PwC Tower, 188 Quay St, connected via airbridge to new PwC;
• Zurich House, 21 Queen St;
• AMP Centre, 29 Customs St West;
• One Queen St or HSBC House on Quay St.
At that last property, a $298m expansion will bring a luxury hotel, more offices and rooftop bar. Precinct secured InterContinental Hotels Group to open a flagship hotel there and L.T. McGuinness won the contract to vastly expand the existing building.
Shops in the 19,000sq m new PwC Tower open next month and offices from April: "There's a sequence with PwC, Jarden and MinterEllisonRuddWatts moving mid to late April," Pritchard said.
PwC comes from Precinct's tower opposite, Jarden from Precinct's ANZ Centre and MinterEllisonRuddWatts from the Lumley Tower on Shortland St. Also moving to the new PwC are Chapman Tripp from Precinct's ANZ Centre, DLA Piper from 205 Queen St, Marsh from Robt' Jones' SAP Tower at 151 Queen St and Alvarium from Precinct's Zurich House.
Many of the moves are therefore Precinct reshuffling its own hand but agents working for it have made some big wins.
Other firms follow, some leaving the old PwC Tower, Albert St ANZ Centre, Shortland St's Vero, the nearby Lumley Tower, from the Viaduct and Queen St, he said.
"It's logistically very challenging," Pritchard said.
Geof Nightingale, a PwC partner, said 900 staff would shift to levels 24 to 29 of the new tower and change how they function.
"This is part of our transition to new ways of working, based on our purpose-led culture. The workspace has been designed by Warren & Mahoney to be fully flexible and open with no individual offices and a large social hub. It is based on a 'follow your work' design to create a collaborative environment. The workspace will be technology-led incorporating new tools and facilities to help us deliver agile and innovative solutions for our clients," Nightingale said.
The move will be managed by an internal project team which also handled the firm's Wellington move in 2018: the chief operating officer and heads of core operational teams in IT, human resources, finance and markets are involved.
Other landlords such as Mansons will soon fill its 136 Fanshawe St building with the Meredith Connell staff and 2degrees.
Manson says his business builds around one substantial office block a year, "around 19 buildings since 2000".
Mansons also sparked KiwiBank's Auckland HQ shifting from the Victoria St West/Hardinge St corner to 155 Fanshawe St, along with part of Southern Cross, also going into that building.
Mansons is building 151 Fanshawe St and 136 Fanshawe St, taking advantage of its ability to buy freehold sites without any pre-leasing commitments due its financial strength and expertise as New Zealand's largest privately-owned corporate developer, with a $1b order book and significant heft in the sector.
Kiwibank CEO Steve Jurkovich said last year of his firm's move: "As New Zealand's largest Kiwi-owned bank we have been underrepresented in Auckland. This investment in a world-class facility matches our Wellington presence and steps up our Auckland footprint."
The new office came with only 12 car parks but changing facilities, 10 showers and 116 cycle spaces, so Jurkovich said that was in keeping with Auckland's move towards more public transport.
Mansons also snared NZX-listed Genesis Energy, which will move around 300 staff from the fringe area of Penrose to 155 Fanshawe St once the new $247m block is finished. Marc England, Genesis chief executive, said the Green Star-rated building would offer energy efficiency, recycled rainwater, solar power, onsite battery storage systems and efficient heating and cooling.
Genesis leased all of level six with 2451sq m and a 116sq m deck and just under half of level five or 1036sq m, to give a total 3603sq m floor area including the deck. Since it bought car-sharing business Yoogo Share, the new premises would offer greater opportunities "to weave car-sharing transport options throughout our operations and push the future of sustainable mobility", England said last year.
Kainga Ora is consolidating in Newmarket and around 1200 Auckland Council workers will move from various locations to the west and north for their new central hub once NZX listed Asset Plus builds at Albany.
Council staff will also next year leave the Asset Plus-owned 35 Graham St in the CBD for other premises in town. The council has Albert St headquarters and Bledisloe House.
Mark Aue, 2degrees chief executive, this month explained good reasons for the move, saying it was more than just new bricks and mortar, and marked a significant moment in the company's evolution.
"We've outgrown where we are, not just in size but in the maturity of the company. We've been part of New Zealand since 2009 and our focus has been on creating competition and value in the market. We've excelled at that with our message resonating with Kiwis throughout New Zealand. So, our new home should reflect our position in market as we continue to grow," he said.
Mansons also built the new $143m Mercury Energy building at 33 Broadway, a retro-looking curvy glass and white-faced statement at a roundabout near the swimming pools. Mercury moved about 600 staff to that new purpose-built premises last year, bringing people from various locations including around Greenlane. Newmarket was purposefully picked as a centrally-located point.
The energy business got fancy features: the interior design in the 5-star green-rated building with two basement levels was by Warren and Mahoney and stairs between levels four and five are extra-wide to allow seating.
Late last year, the Auckland Central Police Station moved to a new home at College Hill near Victoria Park after 51 years at its old building on the corner of Vincent and Cook streets in the central city. Their new premises is a refurbished office block. Around 400 staff shifted and they enjoy an extremely high car parking ratio, with more than 150 carparks, with additional public parking nearby.
Not everyone is keen on moving: one 2degrees staffer complained to the Herald that he dreaded going into the CBD next year, with its congestion from Commercial Bay, City Rail Link, Victoria St cycleway upgrade and Quay St. He'd far rather stay in Newmarket, particularly after the new Westfield opened. Mark Knoff-Thomas, Newmarket Business Association chief executive, mourned 2degrees taking its 600 workers out of his suburb.
And some folk get bitter or upset about car parking losses, less storage space, less space per square metre for workers as floor areas are shrunk in such big corporate relocations. Landlords call it efficiencies of floorplates, selling their dreams to corporates due to rents not increasing vastly because people are more squished, meaning lower areas of A-grade new space which can cost up to $800/sq m a year leased.
For example, 2degrees has around 50 carparks for its workers and guests at 47-49 George St in Newmarket but that halves when it shifts into town.
One corporate move saw space shrink from around 25sq m/person in an old formerly industrial building to just 12sq m/person, raising worker anxiety about more noise, personal space loss, smaller desks, less storage, higher risk of the spread of infectious diseases and particularly colds and 'flu and just downright annoyance at being tightly squashed up.
Some floorplans look more like ant stations and one moved worker said: "Open-plan offices' only benefit is cost savings. It's for the bosses, not the workers."
ASB North Wharf's hot-desking is said to have created internal angst, with its 'bump theory' meant to generate more ideas as workers accidentally meet.
"We get them all in the end," said one developer of the big corporate shifts, often forced out once their older premises fall into a developer's grasp just the lease is about to expire. The developer refuses to renew, forcing the business out, then says 'hey, have I got a deal for you!'. It's like a game of Monopoly played in real-life and with so much at stake.
Andrew Poole, MinterEllisonRuddWatts chief executive, said 250 staff would soon leave three floors in the Lumley Tower for levels 19 to 22 of PwC, having worked with architects Jasmax on the internal fit-out.
"Collaboration is at the core of the design and the floor plans are designed using zones. For example, social and collaboration zones like the staff café and meeting rooms designed to support working together, meeting rooms of various sizes to conduct client calls and strategise," Poole said.
Every staff member will have a personal workspace within their team zone, "and there are many quiet zones and places to move to if someone wants to get a different perspective – break away from their desk."
Open-plan workstations are near windows but teamwork and focused work areas are in the centre. An internal stairwell encourages people to move more, he said.
To ease moving angst, office workers are often issued with named boxes or crates and asked to pack their own items. Moving projects can be named, often in Te Reō Māori, to make the shift seem like a new beginning, better, happier. Rooms in new offices are given special names to mark culture.
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Robyn Richards at corporate relocation specialists B&W Consulting has been involved in many big moves, from hospitals at Auckland, Greenlane, National Women's to libraries, city councils, police stations, Government departments to laboratories and offices.
"One of the biggest challenges is when a business is being restructured as well as moving, or when people are being made redundant – during the planning process the team structures, team numbers and accommodation solutions such as co-location of teams and more, can become very fluid. If an organisation has been in their current facilities a long time, they usually can't take it all with them so decisions have to be made about what goes."
How businesses handle security and the move of IT systems in physical shifts varies according to who they are, how big, how complex, and the mix of new versus relocating equipment Richards said.
"Detailed plans are put in place to mitigate or minimise risks. Every project will have its own IT team for a move – usually, a mix of internal and external resources scaled according to the size and complexity of the job. Detailed relocation planning includes every item – an item can be as simple as a packed crate, or it could be a body part, evidentiary material, or a critical piece of machinery. I tell my team it's just another 'thing'. Don't get overwhelmed, but work through the specific requirements for each 'thing' and detailed planning is key to success" Richards said.
When Xero shifted 400 staff to new purpose-built Parnell offices around the start of last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was invited to do the honours. Meeting rooms were named after famous historical, science or technology figures including Hawking, Galileo and Newton. Others rooms got Māori names like Hihiko [to be inspired, invigorated] and Hononga [joining people/connections].
When NZME moved from 46 Albert St, Cook St and Newmarket to 2 Graham St at the BDO Centre, then-PM John Key officiated.
Naming rights usually go with cornerstone anchor leases but Xero's was named Te Ara Turoa which means the journey of enduring light. To pick that, Xero managing director Craig Hudson and staff met with Ngāti Whatua Orākei including Whai Maia chief executive Rangimarie Hunia, to learn the history of the whenua and the significance of the land where the building stands at 96 St Georges Bay Rd.
And just like when you move house, you chuck stuff, so sometimes, a corporate shift ditches much of the past. For example, when Fletcher Building demolished separate offices in favour of open plan at 810 Great South Rd, Penrose, wall loss meant some of its precious art collection had to be sold.
Shockingly, one Auckland move offered too few desks in the new offices for workers, meaning mothers dropping kids off at school and arriving after 9 am are forced to work in breakouts on laptops - stressful and upsetting, they say, relegated to a lower class of worker.
But there's an upside. Landlords and bosses selling move dreams less on carparks and less space compared to public transport, gyms, restaurants, cycleways, bike storage areas, showers, locker space, better aircon, environmental benefits like grey water recycling, reduced water usage, lower electricity usage, movement-activated lights, larger break-out and quiet areas, new furniture, better lifts.
One Auckland business offered employees who had carparks a one-off payment of $10,000 each to give up their car parking when it shifted premises this decade.
Precinct has been gradually signing new lease deals in the approximately five years since it first announced plans for the tower. Occupancy had risen from 85 per cent last year to 92 per cent this year and Pritchard said that was due to two big leases, kept secret in the meantime.
The entire tower is full except half of levels nine and 13 and all level 30, Pritchard said.
RocketWerkz leased the top two levels at the 38th and 39th floor at a rental rate thought to be around $700/sq m, although it could have been $800/sq m.
But Pritchard pointed to Precinct's results presentation where it was stated 17,487sq m of space was let in the latest half-year. He said that went for $450/sq m a year to $800/sq m a year.
On thing's certain: a number of bi businesses in Auckland are moving and that alone is big business.