One of Whanganui's cornerstone heritage buildings is to have a smarter face in time for the tourist season.
The Post & Telegraph Office at 51 Victoria Ave is having its windows and decorative elements stripped and painted, with support from Whanganui District Council's Heritage Grant Fund.
The Orange Cafe owner Vik Handa is hoping that work will be well out of the way before swarms of summer visitors come to sit on the footpath outside.
"People love to sit outside. It's a prime location," he said.
The work will include the installation of pigeon-proofing strips, council heritage adviser Scott Flutey said.
Pigeons have nested on the building's ledges for decades, and eaten food scraps from the cafe below. They are a major nuisance for Handa, who said customers complain and staff have to clean their excrement off the cafe's umbrellas every night.
He's tried scaring the birds with loud noises, but they got used to it. Across the avenue Mainstreet Whanganui tried installing spikes on ledges where pigeons nest, Geoff Follett said, but that didn't work either.
"They're not supposed to nest there, but they squeeze their little bodies around the spikes."
Work on the building's Victoria Ave facade is set to take about two weeks, Handa said, with work on its Ridgway St side to continue after the summer holidays.
The 1902 building is an important one for the "classic townscape view of Whanganui", according to the Whanganui District Heritage Inventory.
Its clock tower and gables were removed after the 1931 Napier earthquake and the post office that succeeded it was built around the corner in Ridgway St in 1940.
The Post & Telegraph Office is a Class B heritage building in Whanganui's Old Town Area. As such any exterior alterations to it require building consent, and demolition or relocation would require a resource consent that would usually be publicly notified, Flutey said.
The building currently houses The Orange Cafe and a hairdressing business, with yoga studios in the upper storey.
It is owned by a trust, Flutey said.
Council's building control officer Greg Hoobin wouldn't give the building's current rating for earthquake strength, but said that will be available to the public after July next year when the council must record ratings on a government register.
The council is proud to support owners who want to future proof their heritage buildings, Flutey said.
Its contestable Heritage Grant Fund has three rounds a year, with the current one closing on January 31. The fund provides up to 80 per cent of the funding for projects costing less than $15,000, and up to 50 per cent for those costing more.