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Former convent for sale

Tags: Commercial

A landmark central Papakura building originally constructed as a convent in the 1950s and home to a legal practice for over 30 years will go under the hammer as part of Bayleys’ final Total Property auction for 2017.


The 296 sq m two-level building located on a prominent 1012 sq m site at 53 Wood St on the fringe of Papakura’s CBD is for sale with vacant possession through Rod Grieve and Peter Migounoff of Bayleys South Auckland. It will be auctioned on December 6, unless sold prior to that date.

“Built in 1955 as a convent for the nuns of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church, there have only been three owners in the property’s 62-year history and they have been well served by this unique building,” says Grieve. “It has been owned and occupied by Papakura law firm Warren Simpson & Co since 1984 and is now being offered for sale because principal Warren Simpson is retiring and closing his practice so the property is surplus to requirements.

“The building has an imposing two-level frontage to Wood Street, a main residential and commercial arterial route within central Papakura, as well as two single level, high stud wings to the rear. It has been very well maintained and refurbished by the current owner in keeping with the original character of the building.”

There are also two storage sheds behind the building and a substantial yard area, accessed through an electric gate off Wood St, that has provided off street parking for clients and staff as well as rear access to the building.

“This is an underutilised part of the site which has the potential for further development,” says Grieve. “This is an offering which will have appeal to owner occupiers, add value investors as well as developers given its flexible Business – Mixed Use zoning which permits a wide variety of commercial and residential uses.

“We have already had enquiry from parties interested in potentially using the building as a restaurant, café, as professional offices and a boarding house as well as from developers attracted by its residential development potential.”

Migounoff says the property is in a popular location within easy walking distance of the CBD, schooling and one of Auckland’s busiest train stations which provides regular daily services to the Britomart Transport Centre.

“This part of Papakura was developed in the 1950s with a mix of commercial and residential buildings on full sites. Many of these have subsequently been cross leased and subdivided, with some multi-unit development as well, and this is one of a dwindling number of larger sites that remain,” says Migounoff.

“It’s also a prominent, elevated site which gives the property plenty of profile and means that the building is something of a local landmark and offers good branding and signage opportunities.”

The convent was originally built for around eight nuns. The building was developed using the same materials and methods as the neighbouring St Marys Church, completed in 1953, using double brick construction with cavities and steel ties.

The church subdivided just over 1000 sq m of land from their main title which was given to an order of nuns known as The Institute de Notre Dames des Missions. A wall was also built all the way around their site and virtually gave the nuns a gated community.

Warren Simpson says as befits a building designed as a convent, there are a large number of rooms – 14 downstairs and eight upstairs – and around 50 doors.

The western side of the building originally encompassed a chapel, sacristy and confessional each with separate access while the eastern side consisted of a kitchen, walk-in pantry, and old wash house complete with copper. There was a large dining room opening onto the main living room while to the rear there were three rooms used as lounges or bedrooms.

Upstairs there were six “economical” spaces for the nuns’ bedrooms each with their own wardrobes and a hand basin. There was a bath in a separate bathroom and three toilets.

“The nuns had two music rooms where they taught the piano and the violin, one by the front door and one in a stone shed at the rear,” says Simpson. “They literally ‘survived on a song and a prayer’, as the saying goes. They taught at St Mary's schools and were often seen around the streets of Papakura and Pukekohe in their traditional black and white habits.

“They were living in the convent for over quarter of a century in none too easy circumstances serving the people of Franklin and Papakura. The building was originally verging on the austere with wooden floors, a lot of frosted glass for the nuns’ privacy and few frills.

“When my firm took over the property from a development company, which owned it for a short period of time in the early 80s, we replaced the frosted glass with a type of lead light, ornate windows enhanced by exterior and interior wooden shutters,” says Simpson.

“We also replaced a lot of the doors and their fittings with designs of our own. Some have patterned glass, others have hand painted glass while refurbished doors on nuns’ former bedrooms have been restored with an embedded-cross effect. All these improvements have been designed to give the building a more pleasing, period look.

“We’ve also made more than 30 enhancements to the front of the building and its decks including adding 12 reinforced pillars, flood lighting it at night and flying four different New Zealand flags on four, angled flagpoles.

“This approach of supporting kiwi flagbearers with flags and bunting on the building first took off with us with the Rugby World Cup when we had flags across the front of the balcony. We ran several of the flag choices up the flagpoles during John Keys' 'flag change' debate and referendum.

"Over the years the flags have been commented on favourably as 'giving people a lift' and seem to bring the best out of people in Papakura."

A range of modern security features have also been added to the building including a number of exterior lights, a burglar alarm with remote ringing feature, a front door phone plus the electronic entry gate.

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