The regeneration of several historic buildings over the last two to three years has resulted in a significant resurgence of interest in character office space in Wellington’s CBD.
David Fisher, Director of Office Leasing at CBRE, says there has been a noticeable increase in tenants seeking character space. “In some instances, interest has been so high that we could have leased buildings twice over,” says Fisher.
“Tenants are attracted to office space with polished concrete or wooden floors, little or no suspended ceiling with exposed services, opening windows and historic attributes, which allows more scope for expression.”
Evidence of this resurgent interest in character space is the recent leasing at Old Bank Chambers, with Canadian call centre operator, Minacs, signing 2,700sqm of office space over two levels.
“Minacs was attracted to the character features of Old Bank Chambers,” says Fisher. “The high ceilings, character architraves and exposed wooden vaulted ceiling on the top floor were particularly appealing, features you can only get in a character space.
“The remaining space in Old Bank Chambers is currently under contract with many interested parties now seeking alternative character options in the CBD,” adds Fisher.
Fisher says that the recent surge of interest in character space can be traced back to the substantial refurbishment of the Huddart Parker Building, which was completed in late 2013.
“Shortly following completion of the redevelopment, the Huddart Parking Building quickly leased. This provided a boost for buildings of a similar nature and also justified the expense of upgrading the building as well as improving its seismic rating to 100% NBS,” says Fisher.
“While character buildings tend to be not as well serviced by modern building services, such as LED, lighting, modern HVAC and chilled beams, as long as they have been seismically upgraded to current code requirements as part of the redevelopment, tenants are assured that safety and security standards are adhered to, which remains their primary concern.”
Central on Midland Park, formerly the Central Police Station located at the bottom of 157 Lambton Quay, recently underwent a detailed refurbishment and seismic upgrade to provide character office space.
The resulting office space features exposed concrete and brickwork, character detailing, high bay industrial lighting and a mixture of polished wooden floors and carpet tiles.
“Interest and leasing activity in the building was steady initially,” says Fisher, “but there was a flurry of interest at the start of this year, which has resulted in the building being fully leased to eight tenants.
“Similarly, the owners of 330 Lambton Quay, a small building located opposite the Old Bank Arcade, completed its refurbishment and strengthening works in March this year. The floors offer wooden flooring, character windows and internal detailing and were snapped up quickly upon completion.”
In Willis Street the redevelopment of the former Community House for Intergen and the Dom Post Building for Transpower will add considerably to the stock of older and character buildings that have undergone substantial modernisation.
“The owner has commenced extensive redevelopment and seismic upgrade works at these buildings, with both projects well underway,” says Fisher. “The finished product will provide an interconnected environment with active ground level retail, food/beverage and access. This project will enhance the area and provide a vibrant mixed use precinct.”
Tenants who have missed out on previous character office space are still in with a chance to secure premises with several projects underway. A large building with frontage to Brandon and Panama Streets, behind the Harbour City Centre, is being developed by Cornerstone Partners and will add circa 6,000sqm to the market.
“We are already monitoring interest in this space, which will provide a quality character refurbishment and large floors by late 2017,” says Fisher.
Providing largely redundant office space, the former Harcourts Building on Lambton Quay has been extensively refurbished to a bare shell and strengthened. A decision is pending on future use of the property with commercial tenants keeping a keen eye on the outcome.
“While it is encouraging to see modern greenfields development such as the PWC Centre on site 10 and 20 Customhouse Quay being constructed to meet high end corporate tenant demand, the regeneration of existing buildings, particularly with a character bent is alive and well,” says Fisher.
“The resulting blend of new and refurbished ensures that the character of Wellingtons’ landscape will be preserved for some time.”
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