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North Shore landmark for sale

Tags: Auckland Commercial North Shore

One of Auckland’ s historic landmark buildings, The Esplanade Hotel in Devonport, is for sale with multiple leases in place.

The 1,832 sq m 115-year-old building, which has an Historic Places Category 1 listing, is located on a prime 1084 sq m waterfront site on the corner of Victoria St, Devonport town centre’s main street, and Queen’s Parade, opposite the Devonport ferry terminal.

The property is being offered for sale by international tender closing July 3 through James Chan and Matt Lee, of Bayleys’ international division, in conjunction with Terry Kim of Bayleys North Shore Commercial.

“This is an investment offering with a real difference offering an uncommon opportunity to own one of Auckland’s trophy heritage buildings,” says Chan, “The next custodian of this iconic Devonport landmark will benefit from a significant cash flow from a variety of occupants and there could also be an add value, expansion opportunity for someone with a passion for heritage buildings.”

The three-level building is occupied by two major tenants. One is the Esplanade Hotel itself, a boutique hotel accommodation business comprising 17 hotel suites on the top two levels totalling 880 sq m and a restaurant, function and bar area on the 950 sq m ground floor.

The other main tenant is Number One Bistro, a neighbourhood restaurant which occupies 370 sq m of space within the building plus a 40 sq m sheltered courtyard. Additional income is provided by three separate telecommunication leases to Vodafone, Spark NZ and 2degrees. All up, the property is generating net annual rental income of approximately $380,000.

Chan says the current owners completed a major refurbishment of the building when they acquired it in 2004. “Everything has been done in keeping with the hotel's Edwardian-style interior of high ceilings, elegant, spacious rooms with original windows and a grandeur that has been lost in many New Zealand hotels.”

The new operator of the hotel and restaurant has also undertaken a significant renovation to the ground level bar area which has been reconfigured to include a “High Tea” room. This leads into a well appointed dining and function area with polished timber floors and high stud, ornate ceilings with chandeliers.

Chan says The Esplanade is a popular corporate event and wedding venue because of its ambience, waterfront location and easy accessibility via ferry from the Auckland CBD and can cater for up to 100 guests, with vintage High Tea weddings a specialty.

Ten of the guest suites are located on the second floor and a further seven on the top floor, including a two-room self contained penthouse suite with a fireplace and its own kitchen and balcony with harbour views.

The property dates back to 1900 when Northern Property Limited purchased the old Flagstaff Hotel situated on the site. Plans were drawn up to replace the Flagstaff with a grand hotel modelled on the late Edwardian-age waterfront promenade hotels of the English seaside resort towns of Brighton and Blackpool. The Esplanade was named after the best-known resort hotel in Brighton.

Construction of the £7000 hotel was started in 1901 by leading builder William Cranston and completed in February 1903. The Esplanade quickly became established as a well run popular seaside resort hotel with the convenience of a 10 minute ferry trip from the bottom of Queen Street being a major draw card then as it remains today for both locals and visitors to Auckland.


Heritage New Zealand says few large hotels survive from the turn of last century and the fine, ornate facade of the Esplanade is particularly rare. Prominent features of the building include heavily ornamented parapets, elaborately decorated plasterwork, including urns, and double-hung sash windows.

James Chan says there may be potential to redevelop and further expand the building’s foot print at the rear of the site where a number of extensions have been added over the years which have no particular historical value.

“Obviously this would need to be done in consultation with Heritage New Zealand and Auckland Council given the high level of heritage protection that the building has. There have been some preliminary discussions with architects about what building enhancements might be possible within that historical classification and we would be happy to put any interested parties in touch with them.”

The sale comes at a time when a $5.5 million upgrade of neighbouring Devonport Wharf by Auckland Transport is underway. This includes a refurbishment of the wharf’s entrance, a new boardwalk and an upgrade of Marine Square into a more open public space which will improve the visibility of and access to the Esplanade Hotel, says Terry Kim.

Close to two million passengers, including many tourists, pass through the Devonport ferry terminal annually and Matt Lee says the short direct ferry link with downtown Auckland and the building’s historical status and waterfront location increases the Esplanade Hotel’s appeal to visitors to Auckland.

Lee says hotel occupancy rates in Auckland are at record levels, at over 80 per cent, and there are very few boutique heritage hotel accommodation options in the marketplace, particularly on the waterfront.

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