You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
The signs are there for the successful regeneration of the south end of Princes St, writes Tony Eyre.
Completion of the Jetty St upgrade in the warehouse precinct certainly has the senses abuzz. A mob of concrete sheep sniff the air, detecting perhaps the aroma of coffee from yet another cafe enhancing this increasingly popular lunchtime destination. And poems stencilled into Vogel St's macrocarpa seating evoke images of the area's agricultural and maritime past.
Symbolism aside, the precinct's heritage buildings are the real stars, rescued from idleness and neglect and reworked into vibrant and viable work spaces by innovative owners and Dunedin City Council support. This winning formula has got wheels, as can be witnessed by a steady stream of mooted heritage and civic projects such as a people-friendly ``shared space'' around Bond and Water Sts and the eye-popping Grand Designs extravaganza for Steamer Basin.
Parallel to the Vogel St attraction lies another heritage streetscape - the ragamuffin Princes St strip, south of Stafford St. Here it's not so easy to be enthusiastic as the city council's area-based approach to regeneration appears to lack some traction in this area.
That's not to say the outlook is entirely gloomy. There are some standout heritage building facelifts completed and ongoing that I'll come back to.
However, the overall menacing influence in the streetscape is the 372-392 Princes St combo of buildings. The four facades with their pastel shades of blue, yellow, pink and green look bearable enough from a distance but what lies beneath and beyond gives stark evidence to the notion of demolition by neglect. They are like a bully on the block, cocking a snook at attempts to revitalise this part of the Princes St heritage townscape.
We know their fate of course. A Dunedin City Council consent was granted in 2014 for the demolition of all but three of the facades to make way for a retail and apartment complex and the developers have until 2021 to advance the project. No rush - good things take time.
Across the road at 389 Princes St, the burnt-out S.F. Aburn building stands silent under a protective canopy, six years after fire destroyed the secondhand bookshop. The facade still retains its wonderful character and it's encouraging to know the building is destined for restoration by its current owner.
Despite the glaring eyesores, I do enjoy spending time in this part of town to admire those heritage buildings in varying stages of restoration that have attracted retail business to their premises. And the lack of gentrification in the area does have a certain appeal.
Two doors along from the car park that once graced the majestic Century Theatre, the Sievwright and Stout building, with its gold wing-spread eagle atop its dazzling white exterior, stands resplendent and significant as onetime legal offices of former prime minister Sir Robert Stout.
Those owners committed to refurbishing their heritage buildings at great cost do need to be applauded. The Art Deco facade of the former Angus Motors building at 471 Princes St has been revealed in all its glory with carefully chosen colours for the period. Pity the Hillman, Humber and Chrysler dealerships haven't been retained.
Catching the curiosity of passers-by is another major restoration project, the scaffold-clad Empire Hotel at 396 Princes St, with category 1 heritage listing. Like many earlier pubs, it has a colourful history. On this site in 1858 the Queen's Arms Hotel and its Irish publican J.W. Feger hosted Dunedin's second Catholic Mass in its skittle alley.
In more recent memory, of course, the Empire has been immortalised as the home of the 1980s band scene - the Dunedin Sound - where the likes of The Clean, The Chills and The Verlaines belted out their brand of jangle pop.
Sadly, the iconic hotel and music venue finally closed its doors in 2012 after its last publican, John Fogarty, had gallantly run a popular Irish bar on the ground floor while still retaining the original Dunedin Sound bar upstairs.
The new owner's decision to reinstate the original Empire Hotel facade is good news, and the partial completion of parapet and finials is a welcome sign of progress.
Also, good to see the city council's Central City Heritage Re-Use Grants Scheme playing its part.
The successful regeneration of the warehouse precinct suggests to me that Princes St south can once again become a desirable shopping and gathering place when heritage-sensitive building owners and council adaptive re-use schemes combine to work together. The signs are there.
A legal firm has brand-new offices in the refurbished Lone Star restaurant building, a vote of confidence in the area. Other new businesses with pride in their shop window displays are noticeable and recent good coffee outlets have their followers. Just watch out for any straying concrete sheep.
-Tony Eyre is a Dunedin writer.