Work is now underway on the Bridgewater Quay Apartments development project in central Whanganui.
Developer John Hay, who first unveiled plans to turn the former Whanganui Chronicle building on Taupo Quay into a 20-apartment block in November 2018, said he was pleased to see demolition work taking place now the country was in alert level 2.
"We've now been able to start working on-site, and the demolition team of six people will be in the building for the next three weeks, stripping it out," Hay said.
"After that, there'll be a full complement of builders getting stuck in, and we're really looking forward to that."
Hay said Bridgewater Capital Limited had purchased the building, after having it under option for "close to two years".
The three shareholders are Hay, Nick Regos and David Weir.
"It was purchased subject to getting the various approvals in place, which took a lot longer than everybody thought, but it's all been settled and we paid for the land at the end of April," Hay said.
"It's freehold, as opposed to leasehold, which is quite unique for waterfront property, and to be able to buy a building like that, right by the river and downtown, is an amazing opportunity."
Hay said that half of the apartments had been pre-sold.
"All the sales so far have been to local people who want to live there, so that's another positive sign.
"It shows that folks here are looking at apartment-style living as an option."
Hay said the project was expected to be completed in 10 months.
"It's been a long process, and the Resource Management Act is complicated, but we're very lucky that the building was built by the Ministry of Works and Development 50 years ago, and it's incredibly strong structurally.
"Providing there isn't a spike in the Covid-19 virus in the next few months, we're hoping to have people moving in around March or April of next year."
Shareholder Nick Regos, who is the founding director of engineering and construction consultancy firm Miyamoto New Zealand, along with David Weir, said it was important to get construction underway as soon as the lockdown was lifted.
"It's a shovel-ready project that's ready to go, and we wanted to show that things are underway," Regos said.
"Our whole goal is to repurpose existing buildings and to get life back into them, and this is a perfect example of that.
"There is another site we're working on behind the scenes in Whanganui, and we wanted to get started on this project as soon as possible to show that we weren't just all talk."
Regos hoped the Bridgewater project would be the first of several undertaken in Whanganui.
"For us, it's about the long-term, and developing trust with local businesses and the Whanganui District Council."
Allowing members of the public to "come and have a look" at the Bridgewater Quay development had been suggested before the Covid-19 pandemic, Regos said.
"Obviously, there's a lot of history in that building, with the Chronicle and the Railway, and we're hoping to allow people to come and see what we're doing as soon as we're able, so it's not all under a cloak."