The heritage building at 6-8 St Hill St in Whanganui is in the early stages of restoration, and recent resource consent means the end goal of 18 high-end apartments is one step closer.
The man behind the project is developer Dave Moore, of Villa Services, who is also responsible for the restoration of Sarjeant House in Bell St.
He and his wife Marina Moore bought both buildings in 2018.
Like Sarjeant House, the building on the St Hill St/Taupō Quay corner was "in a very perilous state" when they took it over, Moore said.
Four display windows were installed in the building in the mid-1990s, something Moore said he couldn't believe had been allowed to happen.
"I looked at it from the other side of the road and just thought 'You poor thing'," Moore said.
"With it being a wooden building and me being a specialist in the villa-era, I didn't feel it was beyond me though."
The development will include 12 two-bedroom apartments, four one-bedroom apartments, and two three-bedroom apartments.
Building consent for five of them has been granted, and 27 tonnes of unreinforced masonry has already been removed from one of the back walls.
"That's been replaced with ply brace wall, so we've got rid of 27 tonnes of danger already," Moore said.
"We love what we're doing. When everything's finished, it will look the opposite of what it does now."
Restoring the Corinthian design of the building, as opposed to completely remodelling it, was very important to him, Moore said.
"We want to preserve whatever we can of the original glory of the place. Then we're going to emulate that.
"What can't be saved can be replicated."
The building was constructed in 1896 by hotelier John Brennan, beginning life as the 36-bedroom Metropolitan Hotel.
A fire in 1949 destroyed the front upper storey and the staircase of the premises.
It served as Whanganui's central police station from 1954 until 1963, and since then everything from the Marriage Guidance Council Library Service to Phoenix Computers has occupied different parts of it at one time or another.
Carpet Barn, Space Gallery and Red Boat Kung Fu and Martial Arts each set up shop there in recent years.
Moore said the upper storey would be rebuilt as part of the restoration and the bottom floors would be lifted to meet flooding regulations.
"One interesting thing was that we couldn't find any real photographic history of the building's interior, and the same goes for Sarjeant House.
"A few clubs operated within here, and there were a lot of celebrations over the years with the bar.
"A number of different businesses were here at the same time down the bottom, it was a clothing manufacturer for a while."
Tradespeople and materials were in short supply across the whole country at the moment, with supplies having to be ordered at least six months in advance for work to begin on time, Moore said.
Despite that, he said he was hoping the project would be completed in three years.
"There are hold-ups at every level at the moment.
"We are in a bit of a perfect storm, with interruptions in labour, materials and professions.
"Some of the guys across the road [at Bridgewater Quay development] are going to come here when they're finished up over there."
The ground floor on the Taupō Quay side was to be a "promotional space" while the rest of the apartments were being completed, Moore said.
His 12-year-old son's love of Lego will play a part in it, and a model of the first floor the pair built during this year's Covid-19 lockdown is already on display in the front window.
"We've actually got a Lego builder coming in next week, and people passing by can watch him as he builds a full model of the design," Moore said.
"I want people to get excited and engaged with it, like I am, because we are taking on the ugliest building in Whanganui, one that's been victimised and vandalised.
"Once people see that we've saved it, hopefully they can see that anything is possible."
Moore and his wife now live fulltime in Whanganui, having commuted to and from Wellington during the early stages of development.
Their house in the capital was sold to help finance the new project.
"We are all in, we've committed ourselves to the Whanganui experience," Moore said.
"The history of this place has really drawn us in.
"Originally, we only came for the weekend. We were walking our dog along Bell St and then my wife caught a glimpse of Sarjeant House.
"As soon as she saw it I knew what would happen next."
Moore said he planned to have Sarjeant House completed by the time the Sarjeant Gallery reopened its doors in mid-2023.