Legal eagles’ historic perch for sale

2:24 PM Monday August 1, 2016 True Commercial

Princes Chambers at 3 Princes St, Auckland underwent an extensive seismic upgrade in 2014.

The historic Princes Chambers is for sale, having been renovated, seismically strengthened and fully-leased to seven barristers.

The property, at 3 Princes St — which runs past Albert Park and Auckland University — is one of the oldest character buildings in central Auckland.

It has been owned by the current vendor for nearly a decade. The property is being marketed by Bruce Whillans and his colleague Henry Thompson of Whillans Realty Group and will be sold by tender, closing August 25.

Princes Chambers is earning a net annual rental income of $112,479.

Whillans says given the location, the late Victorian-era building has redevelopment potential.

Under the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP), 3 Princes St is zoned City Centre, with a 50-metre height limit with a maximum total floor area ratio of 8:1.

“Subject to obtaining council approval, there could be future potential to retain the building, its facade and character features while building upwards,” Whillans says.

“Longer term, Princes Chambers could also potentially be converted into a top-end private residence or reconfigured to suit an owner-occupier.”

The Category B Heritage building under PAUP could allow accommodation, offices, retail less than 1000sq m and education uses.

With its location on an elevated position overlooking the CBD, Princes St is one of Auckland’s original premium addresses, says Henry Thompson. In the late 1870s and early 1880s it became an exclusive residential area when the City Improvement Commission decided to subdivide the eastern side of the Albert Barracks Reserve.

New grand Italianate houses were built along Princes St, Waterloo Quadrant and nearby Symonds St. Prominent property owners included butcher William Hellaby and the Nathan family.

Today it is strategically positioned between the High Court and Auckland’s financial and legal precinct, and Princes St remains a coveted address for the city’s legal and business fraternity.

“The property has excellent access to the city’s motorway network and it is less than five-minutes-walk from Queen St and the Britomart train station,” Thompson says.

It is directly opposite the five star Pullman Hotel, 60m from the prestigious Northern Club, has ease of access to the Ports motorway onramp and is less than 200m from five public parking buildings.

Built in 1897, the building offers two levels of refurbished office space totalling 380sq m and sits on a 377sq m freehold site with a 15m street frontage.

Offices range in size from 18sq m to 61sq m with a total of 184.3sq m on the ground floor and 196.55sq m of office and meeting space upstairs.

Thompson says Princes Chambers underwent an extensive seismic upgrade in 2014, giving the building a B-Grade IEP rating. The lighting, plumbing and fire alarm system were also upgraded and the roof overhauled.

The property was originally developed as the 23-room Grand Vue Hotel with its immediate location once home to Government House, the Supreme Court and residences for the city’s captains of industry.

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Princes Chambers is one of several character buildings in Princes St. 

Before moving to the Auckland Domain in 1929, the Auckland Museum was located directly opposite Princes Chambers, on the site of the Pullman Hotel.

According to Auckland City Council property records, the original crown grant for the allotment (the current site) went to Alexander Kennedy in 1842. By 1866 there was just a single-storey wooden building on the site. By 1882, the allotment was empty of any structure — any previous building had either been demolished or had burned down.

Records show, however, that 15 years later, by February 1897, there was a brick building on the site owned by Josiah Lawry. This was the Grand Vue, and Lawry advertised in the Auckland Star of October 10, 1898, that its 23 rooms were now available to let. The tenure of the first landlord lasted about 18 months. It was later advertised that all the furnishings were for sale by auction, with the advertisement saying the landlord was leaving due to ill health.

By 1905 it was known as the “Grand Vue Hotel and Boarding House” and it was operated by Miss Elizabeth Boyd until 1916.

Ownership passed from the Lawry family to George Montier Arrowsmith, a boardinghouse keeper in 1910, then Michael and Mary Barry in 1915 and then to William Blomfield, Lockie Gannon and William Griffiths in 1916.

William Blomfield was a prominent Auckland journalist who co-owned The Observer newspaper. Council records say it was likely that he bought the property with Gannon and Griffiths as an investment, while it was leased as a boarding house.

The Grand Vue remained a hospitality business until 1983 when it was converted to offices. Further internal alterations were made in 1992.

The building was originally designed and constructed as a modest late-Victorian plastered brick building with an upper floor veranda supported on brackets. This lent a domestic appearance from the street, not unlike other Victorian hotels, although not typical of hotel buildings in central Auckland at the time. Council records say the building was more like the terraced housing found in some of Australia’s larger cities.

Thompson says historic, refurbished buildings in the central business district are not only rare to find, but seldom come on the market.

He says Princes Chambers is an historic gem and “an immaculate, quintessential, trophy CBD building that remains as a sought-after address for barristers and solicitors”.