New Zealand’s oldest purpose-built police station - and an historic Wellington landmark - has been placed for sale for the first time on the open market.
The 550 sq. m Mt Cook police barracks building at 13 Buckle Street, Mt Cook, was built in 1894 with input from local prisoner labour.
Thousands of distinctive red bricks were handmade by the inmates - with each brick individually marked with a distinctive arrow. The arrows can still be seen on the bricks used for the police station, boundary walls, and the brick wall on Tasman Street.
A particular feature is the black and white glazed brick banding above the arched windows on the lower level, which was modelled off the old Scotland Yard Building in London.
The building is rare in New Zealand in its use of polychrome brickwork for decoration of the facades, and coupled with the rare rosettes molded in the richer red quoins, they together give the building an individuality and character which is quite remarkable.
The Mt Cook police barracks building was officially opened in 1894. The premises consisted of a two-story building with offices and dormitories, an enclosed yard with a scullery, stores and prisoner cells.
Further constabulary accommodation and prisoner cells were added in 1903, and a two-storey brick extension was built on the south-west corner in 1912 - adding even more accommodation and a recreational billiards room.
In 1978 the New Zealand Historic Places Trust undertook a restoration of the building which included removal of the 1912 extension. During the 1980s the Ministry of Works strengthened the building and removed some of the internal walls on the upper level.
The building finished its life as police barracks in 1956 - with police staff moving to the Taranaki Street station. The police force continued to use the building as a clothing store for a further decade.
The Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery then moved in, and stayed there until the completion of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) on Wellington’s waterfront in the late 1990s.
Now the category A heritage listed commercial premises is being marketed for sale by tender through Bayleys Wellington – with tenders closing on April 13.
“This is the first time this remarkable premises has come onto the open market, and it is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.
The building is currently tenanted to several small companies - all on a variety of short term leases which creates opportunities for owner occupiers to adapt the property for their own use.
“There are multiple other uses for the building, and depending on zoning and council regulations.
These could be a boutique hotel or Bed and Breakfast, hospitality, transition to a private residence, owner occupier with apartments on the top floor and offices on the bottom, or even into professional offices for legal or medical practices,” he said.
He said there was also capacity to develop the site further, as the property had a private courtyard and several unused outbuildings including the originalprison cells to the rear.
“A prospective buyer could let their imagination and design flair run wild with these spaces, as there are two cells blocks behind the building that could be turned into a variety of interesting uses, like a wine cellar, gym, office or even a sauna.”
The original cell block is protected as a heritage building, but the additional cell block is not protected, which then enables development to this part of the property,” he said.
Mr Higgie said the property benefited from off road access, good parking to the rear with space for five vehicles and the knowledge for buyers they could never be built out.
“With a corner location on Buckle Street, the building is in a strong position to leverage off its prominent position at the base of the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park,” he said.
“The building’s position adjoining the War Memorial Park gives it the benefit of being in a peaceful pleasant convenient location, close to the Basin Reserve, CBD fringe, and main arterial roads,” he said.
The former police barracks building is surrounded by the park and some of Wellington’s best urban design - with outdoor public art and several places for local workers to sit and walk through.