$2.5 million plea for centre

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A Queenstown accountant is looking to build a $4.5 million community centre to house local organisations.

Long-time local James Denniston says he’s already got close to $2m in pledges and expressions of interest to build a centre for the likes of health, welfare, youth and arts groups.

A JazzFest and former Queenstown Lakes Family Centre trustee, he got the idea after hearing a number of groups were facing a struggle to keep their premises.

“I spoke to seven or eight non-profits and said, ‘if I build a building, would you come into it?’

“They were all right behind it.”

After a tally-up of what organisations are collectively paying in rent, he reckoned he could build a $1.7m centre based on a seven per cent return.

But after looking at what centres in Wanaka and Alexandra cost, for their smaller populations, Denniston decided there’d be demand for something around the $4.5m mark.

While some groups would be happy continuing to rent, he says others would be prepared to invest in the centre – the rent they’d otherwise pay would be returned to them as a dividend.

Denniston says he’d like to see the centre built at Frankton, as it’s closer to more of the local population and sunnier than central Queenstown.

He’d be happy with a two-level building, but a floor of apartments could be added to help fund it.

He says the facility would include a hall and kitchen that could be leased out for functions, but also used for performances or exhibitions.

Denniston expects the facility would be developed by a limited liability partnership.

It would then be operated by a separate trust.

“The big spinoff is you’ll get services all in the one area – for the first time, they’ll be able to talk to each other.”

He’s certain many local people are missing out on some services because groups are struggling to find premises in the resort’s over-heated property market.

“You build the facility and these services will come.”

Denniston says if he can source another $2.5m – “I need some socially-conscious investors” – he’d hope to start drawing up plans early next year.

Wakatipu Youth Trust, which operates The Booth in central Queenstown, is keen to explore Denniston’s idea, chairman Joel Peasey says.

“We definitely see potential synergies around that type of set-up.”

Only this week his trust is discussing options for Frankton premises close to the relocated Wakatipu High.

The school opens at Remarkables Park in 2018.

scoop@scene.co.nz