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Sizeable historic town centre block goes on the market for sale

Tags: Commercial

One of the biggest and most strategic commercial property portfolios in Northland has been placed on the market for sale.

The 5192 square metre block in the heart of Russell contains some of the town’s most prominent retail and hospitality businesses – including the Duke of Marlborough Tavern, the Masonic Lodge headquarters, a Thai restaurant and a mix of shops.

Combined, the tenancies generate some $228,700 of rental income annually. The block is made up of four individual freehold sites in York Street and Church Street. The land is zoned for commercial use and falls within the town centre’s historic precinct.

The quartet of properties is being sold through Bayleys Whangarei - with expressions of buyer interest being taken up until November 27. Bayleys Whangarei sales person Paul Jeeves said that while the vendor was primarily focused on selling the four sites as one portfolio, if there was sufficient interest in the individual addresses they could be sold separately.

He said the vendor would also consider leasing proposals on some or all of the land and buildings.

“The building at 25 York Street houses the very stylish Just Imagine art gallery. The land at 10 and 12 Church Street contains the Masonic Lodge meeting hall and a residential dwelling which are both on short term tenancies,” Mr Jeeves said.

“Completing the portfolio, 19 York Street houses the Duke of Marlborough Tavern and garden bar operated by the nearby Duke of Marlborough Hotel as its ‘public bar,’ along with a stand-alone Thai restaurant, and three retail outlets. Combined, the sites have customer parking for some 59 vehicles.”

Mr Jeeves said the portfolio’s vendor - American-born Terry Ewbank who has lived in Russell for the past 19 years – had intentions of building an upmarket resort on the land to replicate a project Mr Ewbank had previously successfully completed in Aspen, Colorado.

“Mr Ewbank had plans for converting the Masonic lodge into a function venue with capacity for hosting weddings, corporate conferences and meetings, and community events.”

However, Mr Jeeves said that after several years of modernising and upgrading most of the historic structures within the portfolio, Mr Ewbank was now more disposed toward furthering his passion of off-shore sailing – and spending more time on the water.

“Russell’s CBD and wider economy has undergone significant improvement over the past three years – driven foremost by the rejuvenation of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel which has seen what was a ‘tired old lady’ brought back to life to now be Northland’s premier hospitality destination.

“Numerous businesses in the town have benefitted from the Duke’s popularity


resurgence – including arts and crafts purveyors, transport providers, other cafes and restaurants, holiday home rentals, and motels.

“The owners of this property portfolio see now as an opportune time to cash-in on the growth of economic prosperity which the town has witnessed, and are looking for tourism, hospitality and retail ‘visionaries’ to take these properties into a new era.

"That future could include retaining their existing use, or adding value through development in keeping with Russell town centre’s historic feel.”

Mr Jeeves said the adjoining lay-out of the four sites meant that an integrated approach could be taken to potentially combining them together into one common usage.

“Realistically, this opens up the potential for the development of a new and large- scale four-to-five star hotel complex - utilising the existing building infrastructure of licensed food and beverage premises, expansive parking, and on-site retail,” he said.

“Under those dynamics we could well see offshore interests making a play for the offering to escalate what has already been a growing trend in Northland.

“Over the past two years we have noted Chinese investors buying and developing similar tourism-related properties in Northland – such as the Carrington Club hotel, winery and golf course complex on the Karikari Peninsula, and Paihia Beach Resort in Paihia. Down in the Waikato, Chinese interests also purchased the Okorore Hot Springs Hotel earlier this year.

“With existing commercial tenancies in place, these would deliver holding income for any new owner while the necessary plans and consents are obtained.”

Editor’s Note: For further information on the sale of the Russell CBD portfolio, or images of the property, contact at Bayleys Whangarei salesperson Paul Jeeves. Telephone 027 829 0195.

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