Museum reveals post office plans

Proposed redevelopment view of the old Dunedin North post office for the Otago Museum, showing...
Proposed redevelopment view of the old Dunedin North post office for the Otago Museum, showing the north elevation. Graphics by McCoy and Wixon.
The east elevation.
The east elevation.

Plans for a $1.5 million redevelopment of the former Dunedin North Post Office have been revealed by the Otago Museum.

The project would involve an interior refurbishment to create more space for conferences, functions and exhibitions, as well as a new glass foyer, courtyard and pathway outside the building.

Design drawings and an outline of the project will be presented to Dunedin city councillors at the community development committee meeting today.

Museum experience and development director Clare Wilson said it was hoped work would begin in the middle of this year and be completed by December 31, before a public opening in March 2013.

The project would include the refurbishment of the building's ground and first floors, with space for exhibitions and events, working "either together or separately", enabling multiple uses, , she said.

Outside, a glass conservatory would be added on the north side of the building, facing the Otago Museum. The integrity of the bluestone building would be protected, she said.

The building's balcony would be partially covered in glass, to provide a usable space regardless of weather, she said.

New toilet facilities would be added on the ground floor, a kitchen would be built on the first floor, and a new stairwell and lift would link the two levels.

The building, constructed in 1878, has a category 2 listing with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, but the plans had won initial support from NZHPT Otago-Southland area manager Owen Graham.

Ms Wilson said heritage features would either be highlighted or protected, in line with a conservation plan for the building.

The moves came after some councillors expressed concern late last year at the time it was taking to see progress.

The building had been vacant since the Otago Art Society moved to the Dunedin Railway Station about four years ago.

The council granted the museum a 33-year lease to use the building in 2010 and expected it to be refurbished by last month, when annual rent of $12,000 was to begin.

However, councillors voted last September to push back the museum's deadline for completing the work to March next year, after it became clear it would not be ready on time. Rent charges began from January 1 this year.

Ms Wilson confirmed the museum was seeking external funding to offset the cost of the refurbishment, but would not say how much of the museum's money she expected would be spent transforming the building.

Perpetual Trust had already contributed $125,000 towards the project, and any museum funding would come from museum reserves built up through profits, investment returns and other sources, not the museum's ratepayer funding, she said.



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