Huge Auckland CBD site has twin tower plans

5:05 AM Saturday June 11, 2016 Colin Taylor

Artist’s impression of the proposed 46 and 52 storey hotel, apartment and retail development for 1 Mills Lane, Auckland CBD

A large prime Auckland CBD site with three street frontages and previously occupied by the New Zealand Herald for over 140 years, is for sale with new concept plans for a major twin tower residential and hotel development on the property.

Significant preliminary design work and drawings have been completed on the proposed development encompassing nearly 55,000sq m of gross building area and comprising one 52 level tower and a second 46 level tower.

The vacant 4258sq m freehold property at 1 Mills Lane, with frontages also onto Albert St and Wyndham St, has been placed on the market by Mansons TCLM which has decided not to proceed with plans to develop the site.

Director Culum Manson says the company has decided to focus on two new substantial low rise office developments in Sale Street in the CBD and in St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, which will have a finished value in excess of $100 million each, as well as a number of other projects which are in the construction or planning stages.

Paul Hain of Bayleys Auckland has been appointed sole agent to market the Mills Lane property which is for sale by International Private Treaty closing July 13, unless sold beforehand by negotiation.

“Itrepresents one of the largest central Auckland CBD land holdings to come onto the market and its size provides an opportunity to build two stunning landmark buildings on an elevated site close to the popular waterfront end of Queen Street,” he says.

The property was vacated by the New Zealand Herald’s last year when parent company APN NZ, trading as NZME, relocated all of its Auckland media operations into a new CBD office complex developed by Mansons TCLM Ltd on the corner  of Victoria Street West and Graham Street.  Mansons purchased the Mills Lane site from a private Auckland investor in 2014, at the time NZME entered into this lease agreement.

Hain says Mansons has added considerable value to the property since purchasing it by:

• Relocating the tenant (New Zealand Herald) which would otherwise have tied up the site until the expiry of its lease in 2023. The relocation has unlocked the property for development for the first time in over 140 years.

• Obtaining demolition consent in April 2015 for the removal of the existing buildings on the site, meaning that a new development can get underway in the near future.

• Securing resource consent in February 2016 for a 51,000 sq m Six Green Star building, comprising a high rise office tower, a 125-room hotel and a variety of luxury brand shops at ground level plus parking for 300 cars.

The firm of architects that put together the scheme for this development, Architectus, has also come up with an alternative that consists of 52 and 46 storey residential buildings plus an on-site hotel, retail premises and basement parking.

The latest Architectus proposal combines a five-storey podium with two residential towers, approximately 180 metres and 200 metres high, containing around 350 apartments and a 200-room hotel.

The podium would accommodate retail, cafés and restaurants and include courtyard spaces along with hotel facilities such as a gymnasium and a pool. Architectus says the proportions of the podium relate to the scale of the street and the neighbouring buildings, in particular the historic Shakespeare hotel and brewery.

The hotel would be accommodated on the lower 20 levels of the eastern tower, with entrances from both Albert Street and Mills Lane and a hotel restaurant would be located off Albert Street opening onto a private courtyard. 

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Artist’s conception of the proposed 46 and 52 storey twin towers at 1 Mills Lane set in Auckland cityscape.

The proposed towers are oval in shape with continuous balconies, affording 360 degree views of the city and the Waitemata Harbour beyond. The lower levels have eight apartments per floor, with five apartments on mid-level floors and the upper levels housing three or four apartments per floor. Architectus says the proposed towers would be a significant landmark in a rapidly evolving location in the centre of Auckland city.

Hain says the two-building concept plans drawn up by Arhictectus indicate what is achievable with such a big site. “The design allows for the number of hotel rooms to be increased, which would result in the number of residential apartments being reduced, and vice versa.” 

He says there continues to be very strong demand for high quality apartments in the CBD with “baby boomer” owner occupiers becoming increasingly active in this sector of the market as they move into their retirement years and relocate from large family homes.

“There has also been little new CBD hotel development undertaken in Auckland in recent years and with hotel occupancy rates in the city at record levels, there is a big opportunity in this sector of the market as well, particularly given the Mills Lane site is very well located. It’s close to the Auckland convention centre currently under construction and the thriving waterfront precinct.

“This is also in an attractive location for residential living between the waterfront and the Federal Street entertainment precinct with its popular eateries. The corner of Queen St and Shortland St is less than a two minute walk away via the Swanson laneway that runs off Mills Lane and it’s also only a short walk down Albert St to where Precinct Properties’ new Commercial Bay office and retail waterfront complex will be fully developed by 2020.

“The Mills Lane site is in the increasingly popular northwestern part of the CBD, which has benefited from a significant inward migration of tenants in recent years because of its closeness to the waterfront and the Britomart and ferry public transport hubs.”

Hain says the property can be accessed off Wyndham Street and Mills Lane and any development of the site and should not be affected by works Auckland Transport is planning on Albert Street.

The land encompasses three titles of 369sq m, 451sq m and 3438 sq m; and is occupied by five low rise buildings totalling 15,056sq m which were mostly built in the 1950s.

The New Zealand Herald was founded in 1853 but its first precise address was given as being in Wyndham Street in 1872 - although it also occupied a small building on nearby Queen Street for many years.

The editorial, advertising and administrative departments remained on the premises until their relocation to the NZME Central hub building in Graham Street last year.

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Culum Manson of Mansons TCLM (left), and Paul Hain of Bayleys Auckland (right)