Kiwiana theme with a difference

The former Strnger and Co building in Thames St, Oamaru, has had a $2.5 million makeover as a 15...
The former Strnger and Co building in Thames St, Oamaru, has had a $2.5 million makeover as a 15-room boutique hotel. Photo: Hamish MacLean
After a $2.5million upgrade, the transformation of the former Stringer and Co building at the corner of Thames and Eden Sts into a 15-room "upper end" boutique hotel is nearly complete.

Auckland property developer Phillip McNicholl said the project was on target for its scheduled January 10 opening date.

But after a seismic upgrade to 100% of new building standards, the project "morphed" away from the original plan of a mix of suites with en suite toilets and shared facilities into a Kiwiana-themed hotel.

"It evolved over time," Mr McNicholl said.

"We kind of turned into a posh hotel.

"It just evolved through design and - I won't say market analysis because there wasn't a great deal of market analysis - talking to my wife."

"What I think is unique - what I haven't really seen in Oamaru yet - is an all New Zealand-themed hotel where visitors get a New Zealand experience, rather than a, I don't like the phrase, but they say `cookie-cutter hotels', where you get a TV and a bed and that's it. You'll see that they'll get a feel for the history of New Zealand.

"But I also wanted a tactile experience.

"So, rather than a picture of a guy salmon fishing, there's rods, there's a salmon, so people can actually get a real experience. `Oh, they used to fish with old bamboo rods.' Or, `They used to tramp around in this type of gear."'

Lindsay and Dalaine Walker, of Oamaru, who have been brought in as general managers, said they were looking forward to seeing the hotel full.

"It's going to be interesting, to be able to manage it and to fulfil people's expectations, or perceived expectations. If they come here looking for something different, then they'll get it, because it is different," Mr Walker said.

Each of the 15 rooms had its own Kiwiana theme with relics from a Zane Grey fishing expedition, or circa 1920s wooden skis and poles. There were snowshoes, antlers or fishing rods blended with a modern sensibility.

"Phillip has obviously sourced a lot of very, very interesting stuff," Mr Walker said.

Once the hotel opened, plans for the first opening of the Reef Gallery - the attached art gallery - would ramp up.

New Zealand artist Mark Cross, of Niue, would be the first artist in residence, with a planned opening in February.

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