After buying the former King Edward Technical College in November 2022, developer Nicholas Beach applied for resource consent to renovate the Stuart St building and provide short-term and long-term rental accommodation.
The 30,000sq m building has 75 rooms, more than 50 of which have been leased for low rents over the years by various musicians, artists, photographers, and dance and martial arts studios as well as community learning organisations.
The consent application proposed the development would focus on the eastern side of the building — the ground floor would house four short-term units and the first and second floors 10 long-term rentals.
Terramark planning manager Darryl Sycamore said the development was simply a concept and no definite decision had been made on whether or not to proceed.
He said Mr Beach was having an open dialogue with tenants but could not comment any further at this stage.
"Whilst the development would provide an opportunity to restore and preserve the building, his duty is firstly to the tenants and to ensure they remain informed of his plans at each step."
Listed as a category 1 historic place by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, the building was put on the market in September 2022 before being bought by Mr Beach.
A council spokeswoman said the building had since received a $100,000 grant from the Dunedin Heritage Fund for "urgent remedial works and for the preparation of a conservation plan for the building".
Musician Adrian Mann moved to Dunedin from his hometown of Timaru to expand his piano business, Alexander Pianos, about eight years ago, and has been a tenant of King Edward Court since arriving.
Mr Mann praised Mr Beach for his communication with tenants.
"We were all worried that someone would come along and boot us all out.
"A lot of us are still here and doing our thing - he’s been really good at keeping us around."
The application proposed Alexander Pianos would be demolished to make space for a secondary entrance to residential developments in the east wing.
Mr Mann said the owner had told him he would make an effort to relocate the business to another area of the building.
He hoped King Edward Court would continue being a hub for artists.
"Dunedin needs to have that - it needs to be part of what we do here."
Rasa School of Dance director Lisa Wilkinson said the owner had talked to her in person and emailed all the tenants explaining his intentions with the building.
It was her understanding only a few tenants would need to move rooms, due to construction along one side of the building, and she felt reassured there was no risk of being evicted from the building.
"I feel more secure now than I have in the past few years."