Gold town prepares for second rush

Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper looks over Clyde, which he called a ''beacon for development''....
Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper looks over Clyde, which he called a ''beacon for development''. Photos by Sarah Marquet.
David and Andrea Ritchie sit among the restored buildings of Oliver's Lodge and Stables, formerly...
David and Andrea Ritchie sit among the restored buildings of Oliver's Lodge and Stables, formerly part of Benjamin Naylor's Store complex, now used for accommodation.
Mark Laing, one of the directors of Clyde Claim, goes over the plans for the almost completed...
Mark Laing, one of the directors of Clyde Claim, goes over the plans for the almost completed cinema in Clyde.

About 150 years after the gold rush that sparked development in Central Otago, the small town of Clyde is again under development. It was recently described, alongside Cromwell, by Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper as a ''beacon for development''.

The once unnamed section of Fache St, now named Holloway St, seems to be the hub of that development.

On one side of the street the schist and mud brick complex known as Oliver's has, over the last few months, been surrounded in scaffolding as builders work to restore and convert it into a house.

On the other side of the street, new buildings housing several businesses have been constructed from materials designed to blend in with the 150-year old character of the town.

The land on this side of the street, owned by Clyde Claim Services Ltd, was described by Mr Lepper as a ''rough, dead section''.

Now, the 2.5ha section is a hive of activity with several new businesses, including a restaurant, a cinema due to be completed soon and construction of apartments about to start.

Mark Laing, credited by Mr Lepper as a driving force of the development, is modest about his involvement and claims to be ''just a builder''.

He had teamed up with Kevin Braid, of Dunedin, to create Clyde Claim after he had built a holiday house for Mr Braid in Clyde about 20 years ago.

''Then we started scheming. The idea was to create a little village. It was vacant, heritage land.''

Because it is classed as heritage land, Mr Laing said there were ''millions'' of hoops to jump through to get their development off the ground.

Those hoops were mainly to do with design but Mr Laing said their intention was always to create something that would fit with the historical nature of the town anyway - flat fronted buildings in wood and corrugated iron.

The development gained consent from the council six years ago and shortly after the small retail complex was open, then mostly occupied by Touch Yarns. Now, Clyde's two newest businesses, Bike It Now and Active Travel Company - both owned by Ross and Petrea McRobie - occupy part of the complex.

Shortly after the shops were completed, the restaurant was opened and then the men turned their attention to the 175sq m, 42-seat cinema.

However, their project stalled and although Mr Laing did not want to say why, when pressed he blamed the ''economic downturn.

''It's taken way longer than we thought.''

Construction began again last October and will be completed by the end of this month, though a final fit-out by an audio-visual company was needed before it would open.

On the other side of the street, David and Andrea Ritchie are the driving forces of the Oliver's restoration.

The complex, formerly Benjamin Naylor's Store and associated buildings, has a category one rating with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and was built around 1870.

Within the half a hectare town block over which the complex is sprawled are a total of eight stone buildings.

It operated as a store for about 100 years and then passed through several owners before Fleur Sullivan bought it and created the renowned Oliver's Restaurant and Lodge, which she operated for about 20 years from the early 1980s.

It has had several other owners since then but had been vacant for about three years before the Ritchies bought it, almost three years ago.

In September last year they began renovating 11 boutique accommodation rooms, both in the lodge and the former stables, and then turned their attention to their new home - what was a roofless barn and an adjacent shell of a building, next to the accommodation complex.

Wanting to keep everything as original as possible, they retained and incorporated the old doors and windows where they could.

As well, ''everything we are doing internally can be taken off'', Mr Ritchie said.

Their intention is to also restore the rest of the buildings, although they do not have a clear timeline for that.

''It's our desire and expectation that there will be a wine bar, restaurant and function centre.

''For us it's an investment. We love old buildings and think they deserve to be looked after.''

Back on Clyde Claim's side of the road, construction of the four apartments, next to the shops, is the next thing on the list.

Mr Laing said though all the necessary consents were in place, they would like to sell one apartment before beginning construction.

There had already been some interest.

Behind the retail and cinema area, there are four residential plots, two of which have already been sold.

Mr Laing said there was also potential for another small retail shop in front of the cinema, though there was a lot of work to get through before that was fully considered.

''The whole idea was to build and then lease out the buildings and hopefully create a wee bit of interest in Clyde ... like tourism.''

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