The developer of Queenstown’s first major shopping centre, who’s returned to live in the resort, believes the CBD’s ripe for more tourism accommodation.
Adrian Chisholm, 59, and his wife Chrissy have shifted here from Auckland this month nearly 40 years after leaving town.
Adrian originally moved to Queenstown as a youngster, in 1967, and before leaving town was a resident manager at the former Lakeland Hotel.
Getting into property development in Auckland, he bought the Queenstown CBD’s ageing O’Connells Hotel, in 1986, as owner of Hobson Developments Ltd.
After initially planning a mixed hotel/retail development, he bowled the hotel and commenced development of the O’Connell’s Shopping Centre.
He brought in Sydney retail consultants and commissioned long-time local architect John Blair to design the complex.
He also made the radical decision, for those times, to incorporate an underground carpark.
“Some people laughed and said you don’t need parks in Queenstown, you park outside the [shop] door.”
Adrian Chisholm recalls using the services of local engineer John Watts to design a pump that to this day keeps lake water out of the carpark.
Chisholm didn’t see the development through, however.
In early 1987, unnerved by a mini-blip on the stockmarket, foreshadowing the major collapse later that year, he sold his shares to minor shareholder Rainbow Corporation which merged with Argus Questar Corporation to complete the complex.
He remains proud of his original dream – “I think it’s stood up well after almost 30 years”.
That wasn’t the case with another Hobson Developments building in the CBD, in Shotover Street.
Demolished as an earthquake risk last year, it was rebuilt as new premises for retailer Outside Sports.
Chisholm says that’s a bit ironical: “It was built to a higher specification because I had a government tenant, WINZ.”
He and Chrissy have returned to Queenstown to be close to their daughter Emma, their son-in-law and their first grandchild.
Queenstown will now also be the base for their online tourism real estate company Tourism Properties.com, which they set up about a decade ago.
“We sell anything where people commercially sleep, eat, drink or play.”
Chisholm, who’ll also look after the Otago/Southland area, along with Chrissy, also advises hotel and tourism operators, through another business.
He says the rapid pace of commercial development on the Frankton Flats doesn’t surprise him but says it won’t threaten the CBD.
The CBD, he believes, is ripe for more accommodation developments ranging from backpackers to five- to six-star hotels.
The dilemma has always been that the cost of accommodation construction didn’t give a sufficient rate of return because room rates have been too low, he says.
“Finally, that margin is narrowing and it’s now becoming viable.”
Chisholm’s adamant that a convention centre has to be sited in the CBD, as proposed by the local council.
“There may be a need for a smaller meeting area out at Frankton but the reason people come to Queenstown for a convention is the sex appeal of being able to walk around the CBD.”