Building’s future: 'viable alternatives' sought

The former Sims Engineering building in Port Chalmers.
The former Sims Engineering building in Port Chalmers.
Heritage campaigners fighting to save the Sims Engineering building in Port Chalmers are up against a consultant’s report which sees its future only as a car park.

A report by WSP Opus for the Dunedin City Council, which owns the building, has outlined three options for the future of the building.

All of them involve degrees of demolition to make way for car parking on site.

One option would see all buildings levelled, leaving only a flat, open space for a car park.

Alternatively, a partial demolition plan would spare either the oldest section of the Sims building — while turning it into a drive-through car park — or just the brick facade closest to the street.

"They all involve turning it into a car park," council property services group manager David Bainbridge said yesterday.

The three options would cost between $790,000 and $1 million, and create between 41 and 54 car parks, it was estimated.

The report was presented to councillors in the non-public part of Tuesday’s DCC meeting, along with a report from Mr Bainbridge outlining some of the issues still to be addressed.

Mr Bainbridge’s report is yet to be made public, but he told the Otago Daily Times no decisions were made at the meeting.

Instead, the council wanted to hear from community groups with an interest in the building during next year’s annual plan process.

The dilapidated building’s interior. PHOTOS: PETER MCINTOSH/GREGOR RICHARDSON
The dilapidated building’s interior. PHOTOS: PETER MCINTOSH/GREGOR RICHARDSON
He did not think demolition for a car park was ‘‘the best option’’, but nor had the community been able to present a "viable" alternative.

"We would love there to be a viable community use for that building. We’re not seeing one at the moment."

His comments came after members of the new Sims Building Action Group updated councillors on their work at Tuesday’s DCC public forum.

The group has applied to Heritage New Zealand to have the building — parts of which are over a century old — listed as a heritage building.

The former Stevenson and Cook foundry, which was later the base for Sims Engineering, was used over the years for gold dredge construction, the repair of damaged United States destroyers and building World War 2 minesweepers.

The building has been empty since its asbestos roof was removed by the DCC in 2017.

Since then, the council has consulted the community on options for its future, resulting in more than 80 suggestions, including strong support for a car park, an indoor sports facility, market or other recreational uses.

Despite that, Mr Bainbridge defended the WSP Opus report’s narrow focus on car parking, saying the land’s reserve status made other commercial uses of the site difficult.

The way around that might be to revoke the land’s reserve status, returning it to Crown ownership, and let community groups negotiate a sale or lease agreement for a more commercial use directly with the government, he said.

Sims group spokeswoman Kris Smith told councillors her group was forming a trust to fundraise for the building, which they hoped to rename "the Foundry", and envisaged a mixture of community uses.

That included space for artists, the Maritime Union of New Zealand’s collection of memorabilia, markets, exhibitions, studio space and a performance and function venue, she said.

Fundraising had begun and the group planned ask the council to reinstate the building’s roof at next year’s annual plan.

Two well-known heritage architects — Jeremy Salmond and Nick Bevin — were also supporting the group, as was the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust, which saw links between itself and the Sims building.

"We see the building as having played a large part in Otago’s early goldfields history, which therefore makes it an important heritage site,’’ trust president Rex Johnson wrote.



A car park, really? Is that what a Heritage site can be become destined to? Surely we can do better than that for a $1 million! Think what they have done in Oamaru for instance. Why can it not be used as it was intentended? A manufacturing premises. Dunedin has no place that I know of for new manufacturing start up businesses. Why not didvide it up into four units, making it cheaply available for the likes of craftsman working in wood, glass, metal, leather, stone carving, artists etc, anything that is traditional and hand made, in keeping with the building itself. Have the leases based on annual profit, Tourists again would have something else to see. I see them walking out to Carey's Bay often. The right visitor may offer export opportunities, who knows? Tech start ups are well catered for, lets see something for the traditinal trades that offer alternative choices for our young people. Why on earth are we paying consultants? Can't DCC engage fully with the community and research ideas itself?

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