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Slice of Aucklands history up for sale

Tags: Auckland CBD Commercial

Two iconic adjoining character buildings, once the headquarters of the British Traders Insurance Co, on are up for sale in newly upgraded O’ Connell Street in Auckland’ s CBD.

The 927 sq m three and four storey retail and office premises located on one 331 sq m title at 15-23 O’Connell Street are currently generating total annual net rental of $359,511 per annum plus GST from eight tenants. Featured among over 75 offerings in Bayleys’ latest national Total Property portfolio, the property is being marketed by Brendan Graves and Andre Siegert of Bayleys Auckland office and is for sale by tender closing May 19, unless sold prior.

Graves says the fully leased property has been refurbished throughout to a high standard with the upgrades having preserved and enhanced many of the original features of the buildings. “The most appealing character aspects from a tenant’s point of view, including exposed internal brick work and high stud timber ceilings, have been retained and are complemented by timber and polished concrete floors. At the same time modern building services and amenities have been unobtrusively added including kitchens and upgraded bathrooms.”

Boutique menswear company Strangely Normal, which was established in 1997 and also offers a tailoring service from its Avondale workshop, has been in occupation on the ground floor since 2006. The other two street level tenants are Bespoke Barbers and Touquet, a restaurant modelled on French style bistros with a small menu that changes often.

Graves says another hairdresser occupies part of level one with the balance of the premises consisting of high quality character office accommodation whose occupants include a publishing company, marketing agency and architect. The upper level tenancies have their own entrance foyer.

“With scope for rental growth over the longer term, this property is a solid buy-and-hold investment asset in a precinct where property is tightly held and is strong demand,” says Graves. “There could also be an opportunity for an owner occupier here with the vendor providing a rental underwrite over the 183 sq m top level of 15 O’Connell Street for 12 months. This could suit a business looking for CBD character space but wanting to own their own premises and they could use the rent from other tenants to help pay off any mortgage.”

The property’s history dates back to the late 19th century when it was leased and subsequently owned by well known Auckland printer and publisher Arthur Cleave. He substantially altered the previous building on the site by adding two storeys in 1910 and a further storey in 1929. The Guardian Trust acquired the property in 1934 and architect A M Bartley designed a number of structural alterations that gave the façade its current distinctive art deco lines.

The British Traders Insurance Co leased the property in the late 1940s and then acquired it in 1953 when another renovation was undertaken by architect Lewis Walker which included inscripting the company’s name across the façade where it remains today. Since 1966 the property has had a number of owners and was used as nightclub premises before being once again refurbished for its current use. It has a 2014 Capital Valuation of $6,300,000.

Siegert says the property has close to 20 metres of frontage to O’Connell Street which has benefitted from a $2.25 million revamp completed in September last year. “This has transformed the street into a pedestrian-friendly


shared space that provides for a wide mix of public and commercial activity such as street dining, events and walking while allowing access for vehicles.”

The upgrade has also re-established O’Connell Street as an important part of the city centre 'laneway' circuit - a walking route connecting a sequence of public squares and gathering spaces from Aotea Square to the waterfront. Siegert says this should increase the amount of foot traffic in the street which would benefit tenants. “The fact that outdoor dining is also now an option will significantly increase the street’s appeal to food and beverage tenants in particular.”

The six month upgrade project has incorporated improved lighting, street furniture containing information on the street’s heritage and a special textured stone paving which in addition to improving the street’s appearance also assists blind and partially sighted people to navigate it.

Ludo Campbell-Reid, Auckland Council’s Design Champion, says the end result will leave a lasting legacy.“O’Connell Street’s personality was hidden behind a row of parked cars which was not contributing to the vibrancy of the street. By removing this clutter, the heritage buildings have been revealed. This space will become one of the great little streets of Auckland, and will benefit the city for many years.”

Chris Upton, owner of the longstanding O’Connell Street Bistro, says the revamp, undertaken in consultation with businesses in the street, has been a 100 per cent success. “It has given pedestrians as well as businesses a fantastic, open space.”

View 15-23 O’Connell Street here.

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