With two Old Town buildings in successful restoration Whanganui councillor Hadleigh Reid is now looking to upgrade more.
The 1877 wooden building on the corner of Drews Ave and Ridgway St is being restored to provide a display and work space for glass artist Katie Brown, with three apartments above.
At the other end of the Drews Ave block, on the Rutland St corner, the 1900 former Cosmopolitan Club building has been renovated to house Reid's dental practice and other businesses.
In between are three unused buildings that have been deteriorating. If they are restored they will form a continuous heritage frontage on that side of the block.
"It's almost a perfect heritage street," Reid said.
He's in the process of consulting engineers and architect Elinor Harvey McDouall about restoring the three unused buildings. Work could begin next year, subject to what is discovered and whether he can borrow enough money.
Linking the three with the Class B Heritage New Zealand listed Cosmopolitan Club will make finance from Government's Heritage EQUIP fund available.
Because Whanganui is a regional centre in an area of earthquake risk the fund could pay 67 per cent of the cost of earthquake strengthening.
The unused 1921 Stevenson's Building would cost at least $200,000 to earthquake strengthen.
Reid bought the former Cosmopolitan Club building at 30 Drews Ave in 2010, just before the Christchurch earthquakes. It's a brick and masonry building, like the unused three, and its earthquake strength is only about 20 per cent of new building standard.
He bought the four other buildings along the block in mid-2018, at an auction, for $180,000.
The wooden building on the corner is being restored by Shane Stone Builders for Brown's use. Site manager Adam Vettise said there are now 700 sheets of gib board lining its interior.
Downstairs is a spacious display area Brown will share with other artists, with work rooms at the back. Brown hopes to move her business in by the end of February.
Upstairs are three one-bedroom apartments, each with a loft. Altogether they would sleep a maximum of 10 people and Reid believes they will be popular.
"It's quite satisfying to contribute toward the alleviation of Whanganui's housing crisis."
The Stevenson's Building next door will need a lot of work. Its roof leaks in places and it occupies almost the whole of a large section, with a courtyard area at the back.
It could contain several more apartments, Reid said, and was designed by Harvey McDouall's great-uncle Clifford Hood.
The taller building downhill from it will probably have commercial use. The smaller one beside it will likely be demolished, along with the rear half of the taller one, to allow a driveway to about six car parking spaces at the back.
The car parks are needed to attract good quality tenants for the high-amenity apartments.
The restoration project works because all the buildings can be linked, Reid said.
When he bought the Cosmopolitan Club he knew it lacked earthquake strength, but couldn't borrow the money to strengthen it. Now, with property values increasing, he probably could, and he said new strengthening techniques are less destructive of buildings.
He would look to either strengthen the building while it's occupied, or defer strengthening until later.
Embarking on major building work was off-putting to him at first, he said.
"Now that we are going through the process I have found it really interesting, exciting and really enjoying being part of it."