A new owner is spending almost $2 million to modernise one of Queenstown’s most notorious worker accommodation complexes.
Aucklander Logan Cranston settled last month on the 48-unit Frankton Arm Apartments, plus a manager’s house.
Cranston says his company, Themus One, paid under $3m to Dorchester Finance, which had held the units since former owner, Christchurch developer John Leeder, went belly-up a few years back.
The units – originally built as hotel rooms – had been let out for worker accommodation in recent times.
The run-down complex attracted nicknames like ‘The Bronx’.
“It’s been a disaster zone,” Cranston says.
“Two or three years ago, it was part of the police patrol to come here.
“If something happened in town, the police would come here to look for the perpetrator.”
Cranston says Dorchester Finance cleaned up the joint and “got some of the ratty tenants out”.
He’s begun a complete refit of 45 studio units, three one and two-bedroom units and the manager’s house.
Existing tenants will be shuffled around the complex while units are done up.
Each unit will get a brand-new interior, double-glazed windows, energy-efficient heating and lighting and full insulation.
“There’s always been a shortage of decent worker accommodation in Queenstown,” Cranston says.
“Any time something like this gets to a level where it’s cheap enough for the Queenstown workers to live in, it gets bought by a developer with a bulldozer sitting on his shoulder waiting to demolish the place.”
The result is owners had hardly spent a cent on maintenance over the past decade, Cranston says.
Cranston has on-sold 22 of the units to overseas-based friends – the complex has 38 unit titles.
But they’ll all be retained as long-term rental accommodation, he says.
“Every time there’s a boom, people come along and look for stuff like this to buy up, with grand plans.
“But if you look at the maths of it, it really wasn’t going to work with what some of those people paid.
“If in 10 or 15 years’ time there’s another boom and it’s the obvious thing to knock it over, we’ll look at it.”
Cranston says he’s staying here most of this year to supervise the renovations – the first units will be ready in six to eight weeks.
“The whole thing including the site works, roading, underground services and the refurb is getting up towards $2m.”
It would have cost a lot more if he’d employed a building company, he notes.
Cranston says rental levels haven’t been set but will be higher than the current $150 or so per week.
The 40-year-old says he specialised in new-build terraced housing in Auckland.
“I was lucky enough, or clever enough, to get out before the crash happened.”