Post office conversion ready to go

Director of Arrow International Ron Anderson (left)and the company's Southern strategic...
Director of Arrow International Ron Anderson (left)and the company's Southern strategic development manager, Stephen Cairns, with the plans for the fit-out of the former chief post office. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
A multimillion-dollar project to transform the former Dunedin chief post office has been delivered.

Work on converting the 10-storey heritage building into a 120-apartment hotel and office space for Silver Fern Farms and other commercial tenants could begin within weeks.

Building owner Geoff Thomson, of Distinction Hotels, told the Otago Daily Times: ''I just love the building and it was just about trying to find a way to make it stack up''.

Arrow International would spearhead the fit-out of the office space and hotel and the construction of a multilevel car park at the rear of the building.

The four-star plus Distinction Dunedin hotel project would cost more than $15 million, but those involved with the project declined to confirm a figure.

However, the anchor tenancy of Silver Fern Farms, which would occupy the first two floors, and unnamed commercial tenants the third floor, would help to ''underpin the building'', Mr Thomson said.

The commercial floors would be fitted out by the end of the year. Construction of a three-storey car park on its Bond St car park at the rear of the building would also be done by then.

Designs had yet to be finalised for the remaining seven floors of the hotel apartments.

Self-contained rooms offering short or longer stays would be ideal for the Dunedin market, which ''was not as strong as everyone believes it is'', Mr Thomson said.

''But there is capacity to grow some business into Dunedin.''

The final hotel apartment stage could be completed by the end of next year.

Mr Thomson singled out for praise the work of Des Adamson, of the Dunedin City Council Economic Development Unit, and ongoing support from council staff.

''The council has been very proactive in encouraging me to do something with it, and enabled something to happen. A lot of people forever slag councils but, to be fair, I have actually found them very, very good.''

He would not comment on the proposal by Betterways Advisory Ltd to build a $100 million waterfront hotel, other than to say he did not believe there was enough business to justify the number of rooms.

However, his project would complement similar work in the historic area, and help to revitalise the Exchange area.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the development of the former chief post office was ''critical'' for development of the Exchange area and the historic warehouse area.

''The old chief post office is kind of the anchor of the area and its refurbishment and being brought back to life would naturally have an effect on everything around it.''

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the announcement was ''great news for Dunedin'', and bodes well for other people wanting to invest in the city.

''The reuse of an exciting building that is part of the heritage of the city is very positive for the city.''

He did not believe the chief post office development would affect the Betterways project, with those backers having until June 26 to decide whether to appeal the decision of the council's hearings committee.

Stephen Cairns, Southern strategic development manager with Arrow International, said the conversion of the 14,400sq m building would include adding two lift shafts at the Bond St hotel entrance, while the two Princes St lifts would be ''reinvigorated''.

''Our team is excited to be working on a project that means so much to Dunedin. Heritage buildings are a big part of Dunedin's identity and we want to make sure we can help retain this.''


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