Hadleigh Reid reckons he's lost some sleep since he bought three old inner city Whanganui buildings but that's only because he's excited by the prospect of upgrading them.

Reid was the sole bidder when the buildings were auctioned recently, a purchase that means he now owns the entire frontage along north side of Drews Ave from Ridgway St to Rutland St.

The Whanganui dentist and district councillor will tackle the building on the corner of Ridgway St and Drews Ave first because it needs the least amount of structural work done to it and at this stage suggests a retail tenant could be interested.

Apart from the corner site, the other two buildings - 40 and 44 Drews Ave - are on the list of the city's heritage buildings.

Advertisement

He wants to get the first building upgraded as soon as possible.

"I try to be patient, but that doesn't always happen, so I'm hoping within six months or so it will be ready. I know builders are really busy around town but we'll be getting into it as soon as we can."

He said as well as potential retail floor space, the buildings would lend themselves to apartment living, "which is something council is encouraging in the inner city".

The buildings were auctioned by Bayleys Whanganui this month and Reid said he was surprised he was the only bidder.

"There had been murmurings of pulling down that corner building, so I was pleased I eventually got it."

He said his decision was influenced by what he heard at a heritage and earthquake-strengthening public meeting a few weeks ago, especially the advances that had been made in earthquake-proofing old buildings and external funding available.

Up to 50 per cent of earthquake strengthening costs are available through central government's EQUIP fund while the district council has some funding on hand for façade restoration.

"And we know council has been working to smooth the way to get this sort of redevelopment under way."

He told the Chronicle that initially he was "very reluctant" to bid.

"I got it for the reserve price and was pleased with that.

"It was hearing from engineers about what could be done that showed me the difference between the purchase price and an eventual upgrade is not too significant."

Reid said he had always been interested in the properties which adjoin the former Cosmopolitan Club building of which he is a part-owner.

"There are now a lot more sensible and affordable solutions available to upgrade these types of buildings.

"After walking around the city centre it gave me a greater appreciation of the heritage architecture and I thought maybe I can do something about this."

Whanganui District councillor Helen Craig, who chairs the council's property and community services committee, which is charged with town centre regeneration, said Reid's decision was to be applauded.

"Some talked of demolishing those buildings but Hadleigh believes that restoration is possible and economically viable and hopes a mix of retail/office space and apartment living will see these buildings fully occupied," Craig said.

She said quake-proofing buildings was well developed and "Whanganui has local developers well versed in restoration projects".

She hoped these latest initiatives would enliven Whanganui's central business district and make tenancies and investment attractive.