Sale of land in Whangārei opens door to Kāinga Ora high-rise plan


The sale of two prime blocks in central Whangārei enabled the national housing agency Kāinga Ora to push forward plans for the construction of high-rise apartments.

Whangārei District Council is looking for a developer for 8 and 10 Dent St, to purchase the sites and develop them into visitor housing or medium density housing.

The sites were conditionally sold in 2019 to Millennium & Copthorne Hotels for $ 2.15 million.

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand planned to build this 70- to 80-bed hotel in the Whangārei CBD, but canned the project after Covid-19 changed the tourism and accommodation industry.  (File photo)

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Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand planned to build this 70- to 80-bed hotel in the Whangārei CBD, but canned the project after Covid-19 changed the tourism and accommodation industry. (File photo)

The hotel chain had planned to build a four-star hotel with 70 to 80 beds, but withdrew from the deal in April, saying the coronavirus had changed tourism and accommodation “beyond measure”.

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In anticipation of the sale, the council removed the daycare center at number 10 and moved tenants of the six-apartment building to number 8, known as Almond Court.

The Whangārei District Council's tender says the unoccupied Almond Court apartments at 8 Dent St can be renovated or removed.  (File photo)

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The Whangārei District Council’s tender says the unoccupied Almond Court apartments at 8 Dent St can be renovated or removed. (File photo)

The Council is now announcing a bidding process for the two blocks, leaving options to refurbish or demolish Almond Court.

The sale could allow public housing agency Kāinga Ora to advance their plans to build high-density public housing in the CBD, with the aim of providing more affordable housing in Tai Tokerau.

Northland is short of 4,500 social and affordable housing units and has more than 1,000 families waiting for public housing.

Kāinga Ora thinks 10 Dent St, site of a former daycare center, is perfect for tall buildings.

Denise Piper / Stuff

Kāinga Ora thinks 10 Dent St, site of a former daycare center, is perfect for tall buildings.

The state house builder approached the council in July, saying it was actively looking for suitable sites for development.

Northland Regional Manager Jeff Murray said that at the time Kāinga Ora had two specific sites owned by the council for higher density development in mind: 10 Dent St and Vinery Lane Car Park.

The decision to provide apartments in central Whangārei received broad support from residents, who said it was “high time” to live in the city center.

Murray said Kāinga Ora is now considering his options over the bidding for the sites.

“Any development proposal would be in line with the Whangārei District Council’s downtown plan and reflect the need to create more places to live in Whangārei. “

He wouldn’t wonder if Almond Court could be kept as part of a possible development.

But architect Felicity Christian hoped there would be enough room on the site for high-density development and to retain the iconic 1940s red-brick apartments.

Architect Felicity Christian claims the 1940s red brick Almond Court apartments have unique features and could be renovated to be funky downtown living.  (File photo)

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Architect Felicity Christian claims the 1940s red brick Almond Court apartments have unique features and could be renovated to be funky downtown living. (File photo)

She supported building more housing in the city center, but said Almond Court Apartments are special for their architectural heritage and social history.

Christian said the apartments could easily be upgraded with skylights, heat pumps, new kitchens and bathrooms.

“They are reasonably dark and dull because nothing has been done to them since they were built in the 1940s,” she said.

Council estimated that it would cost up to $ 890,000 to bring the apartments up to standard.

Christian was hoping to meet with Kāinga Ora to discuss how Almond Court could be saved, if the national housing agency secures the land.

The first stage of the council’s call for tenders, a call for proposals, ends on September 27.


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