Duke Tavern building in big block of historic Russell for sale

12:58 PM Saturday November 22, 2014 Colin Taylor

The Duke of Marlborough Tavern building is for sale as part of a parcel of four properties in the Russell commercial centre, Bay of Islands.

Four properties comprising much of the commercial heart of historic Russell in the Bay of Islands have been placed on the market with the potential for the development of a new four or five star hotel and function complex.

The sale comprises one of the biggest commercial property portfolios in Northland and is featured in Bayleys’ latest Total Property magazine. The portfolio is only for the land and buildings and not for the businesses. 

The 5192 square metre block contains some of the town’s most prominent retail and hospitality businesses – the Masonic Lodge headquarters, a Thai restaurant and a mix of shops and the Duke of Marlborough Tavern.

The block is made up of four individual freehold sites in York St and Church St and the four combined tenancies generate $228,700 of annual rental income. The land is zoned for commercial use and falls within the town centre’s historic precinct

The quartet of properties is being sold through Bayleys Whangarei with expressions of buyer interest being taken up until November 27.  

The agency’s Paul Jeeves says vendor is primarily focused on selling the four sites as one portfolio but if there is sufficient interest in the individual addresses they could be sold separately.

He said the owner would also consider leasing proposals on some or all of the land and buildings.

“The building at 25 York Street houses the very stylish Just Imagine art gallery. The land at 10 and 12 Church Street contains the Masonic Lodge meeting hall and a residential dwelling which are both on short term tenancies,” Jeeves says

True Commercial - Russell, Bay of Islands, retail units for sale.jpg

This strip of shops is for sale as part of the Russell commercial centre block.

“Completing the portfolio, 19 York Street houses the Duke of Marlborough Tavern and garden bar operated by the nearby Duke of Marlborough Hotel as its ‘public bar,’ along with a stand-alone Thai restaurant, and three retail outlets. Combined, the sites have customer parking for some 59 vehicles.”

Jeeves says the portfolio’s owner, American-born Terry Ewbank who has lived in Russell for the past 19 years, had intentions of building an upmarket resort on the land to replicate a project he had previously completed in Aspen, Colorado.

“Mr Ewbank had plans for converting the Masonic lodge into a function venue with capacity for hosting weddings, corporate conferences and meetings, and community events.

“However, after several years of modernising and upgrading most of the historic structures within the portfolio, Mr Ewbank is now more disposed toward furthering his passion of off-shore sailing – and spending more time on the water.”

Jeeves said Russell’s CBD and wider economy had undergone significant improvement over the past three years – driven foremost by the rejuvenation of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel which was seen as “a tired old lady” brought back to life as Northland’s premier hospitality destination.

“Numerous businesses in the town have benefitted from the Duke’s popularity resurgence including arts and crafts purveyors, transport providers, cafes and restaurants, holiday home rentals and motels.

“The owners of the property portfolio see this as an opportune time to cash-in on the growth of the economic prosperity the town has witnessed, and are looking for tourism, hospitality and retail ‘visionaries’ to take these properties into a new era.
“That future could include retaining their existing use, or adding value through development in keeping with Russell town centre’s historic feel.”

Jeeves says the adjoining lay-out of the four sites means that an integrated approach could be taken to combining them together into one common usage.

“Realistically, this opens up the potential for the development of a new and large-scale four-to-five star hotel complex - using the existing building infrastructure of licensed food and beverage premises, expansive parking, and on-site retail,” he says.

“Under those dynamics we could well see offshore interests making a play for the offering to escalate what has already been a growing trend in Northland.

“Over the past two years we have noted Chinese investors buying and developing similar tourism-related properties in Northland such as the Carrington Club hotel, winery and golf course complex on the Karikari Peninsula; and the Paihia Beach Resort. Down in the Waikato, Chinese interests also purchased the Okorore Hot Springs Hotel earlier this year.

“With existing commercial tenancies in place, these would deliver holding income for a new owner while the necessary plans and consents for a new development were obtained.”

True Commercial - Russell centre, Bay of Islands - elevated view.jpg

Aerial view of Russell commercial centre in which the block of four properties is for sale.