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HWCP Management Ltd presented its $200million project to the Invercargill City Council seeking approval for demolition of 14 buildings scheduled on the council district plan.
Heritage Properties Ltd director Hayden Cawte said the proposal would also affect buildings included on the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga List, including the demolition of the The Lewis and Co building in Esk St and Newburgh Building in Dee St.
The Bank of New South Wales in Dee St would be retained in full, while the facades of Cambridge Arcade, Coxhead and The Southland Times buildings would be maintained.
On the site, the company would build a retail precinct at the block bounded by Tay, Dee, Esk and Kelvin Sts.
Retail stores, a medical centre, office spaces and a food outlet inspired by the "Little High'' in Christchurch were planned.
Originally, the Thomsons Building in Kelvin St was to be conserved but the proposal changed.
Commissioner John Maassen questioned how Mr Cawte decided demolition of the building was the correct move as ``one month ago it was in the plan and now is not''.
Mr Cawte said the company decided keeping the Cambridge Arcade facade instead of the Thomson building would be a "better outcome'.
"Having a single-storey building was not necessary. The Thomson building was basically isolated in the street.''
Mr Maassen also raised concerns about whether the community would agree with the plan, to which Mr Cawte replied only six submissions had mentioned heritage matters.
Architect James Burgess said it would be a quite significant change for the town centre.
"It is a game changer for the CBD. It is a significant development to Invercargill.''
Mr Maassen questioned him about why more heritage elements could not be included in Esk St.
"How the elements can't be used to incorporate other facades is a little bit hard for me to understand.''
The consent hearing continues tomorrow. Eleven submitters have asked to speak.
Others on the panel are planner Gina Sweetman and urban designer Jane Black.