Whanganui's former AA building is to become a two-storey heritage facade with modern retail space behind it, development company manager Tim Fitz-Herbert says.

The Wallace Development Company is seeking resource consent to demolish most of the building and the two warehouses behind it, leaving only the facade. Mr Fitz-Herbert said building work would start this year.

He has some committed tenants for the new retail place - shops selling fashion clothing and accessories. None of them exist in Whanganui at present, he said.

The challenge of the project has been to keep the facade but still have a modern, functional space behind it. The new retail space will be 1900 square metres in size, with a high stud and a good display frontage.


The facade will be strengthened and restored as nearly as possible to its original condition, with a veranda.

The site is large, and the company has owned it for about three years. One of the buildings to be demolished at rear is the former Rock 'n Roll Club hall. The new building will use more of the space available, leaving less for car parking.

The only tenants left in the former AA building at present are America Nails and the Cactus Creme Cafe.

Finding new tenants for the retail space hasn't been easy, and Mr Fitz-Herbert said the company put a lot of work into it.

"People were reluctant, but we convinced them otherwise. We tried to remove the barriers."

Whanganui District Council has been "very positive, helpful and accommodating," he said.

The Wallace Development Company started in Whanganui, and managing director Jonathan Wallace was born here.

It owns commercial property sites, and it plans and builds projects and then leases or sells them. Its head office is in Havelock North.

In Whanganui it also developed the new AA building and Super Cheap Auto - both in Victoria Ave.