Mark down November 2009 as the month central Queenstown becomes a crane-free and scaffolding-free zone.
An almost non-stop development boom in the resort’s CBD has finally come to a halt with the near-completion of Skyline Enterprises’ two-level building on the high-profile Rees/Beach Streets corner.
Cranes and scaffolding have been almost a permanent fixture for several years.
Major projects have included Ngai Tahu’s Post Office Precinct and The Mountaineer and Church St buildings – all finished off in recent months.
But Skyline’s building – prosaically named 24 Rees St – is likely to be downtown’s last greenfields project for at least a year or two as developers pull in their horns following the credit crunch.
As it happens, Skyline wouldn’t have built at this time if it hadn’t been for a fire two years ago which destroyed its Night ‘n’ Day and Opal Centre buildings.
The local tourism, property and casino conglomerate then expanded the footprint for its $3.5 million rebuild by demolishing the lakefront Wakatipu Arcade, which formerly wrapped around the two burnt-out buildings.
Skyline’s redevelopment was assisted by an existing resource consent for a new building already held by the property’s former Asian owners.
As originally designed by long-time local architect Michael Wyatt, the new complex essentially consists of three buildings – in Oamaru stone, plaster and stacked stone respectively – as seen from Rees St.
However, Skyline modified the consent to open up more ground-floor window space to suit retail tenants.
“The concept was to create more of a fashion-type precinct,” new Skyline chief Jeff Staniland says.
“We felt, either rightly or wrongly, that if we could keep food and beverage in The Mall and some retail in Rees St, it might end up benefiting everybody.”
Skyline has so far signed up four retailers for the 671sq m ground floor, with the only vacancy being 140sq m of space between Beach St and the lakefront reserve.
Those four are existing CBD retailers – Canterbury of Queenstown owner Miles Wilson, returning tenant The Opal Centre, Sharron Holland’s Hair in Queenstown and women’s clothing store Style & Grace.
Staniland won’t reveal rents: “That’s between us and our tenants.”
Style & Grace owner Jan Warwick says rent’s “down a bit” on what other landlords have been charging in recent years but still more than her family trust pays for its prime-site store in Auckland’s fashionable Parnell.
Warwick is happy to have local firm Skyline as her landlord.
“They have a better pulse on the ups and downs of the local economy than absentee landlords.”
Warwick will also feel at home in Rees St – she owned a photographic business there in the 1980s and 90s.
Skyline’s been less successful in letting its upper floor.
The only confirmed tenant is dentist John Molloy, who’s operated from nearby Wilkinsons Pharmacy building for 32 years.
“Office space is over-supplied but we’re relaxed as quality space will fill in time,” Staniland says.
Skyline also has a vacant lakefront site by nearby Eichardt’s Private Hotel, which is also owns.
That’s likely to be developed for retail with a possible hotel extension on top – but Skyline won’t rush to build, Staniland says.
“We’d like to get a consent and have it in the bottom drawer.”