St James Theatre tower shops feature in new portfolio

5:00 AM Saturday August 1, 2015 Colin Taylor

Artist’s impression of the planned street level shops frontage of the St James Suites tower at 302-322 Queen St.

Prime retail units in the ground and basement levels of a proposed tower block on the St James Theatre site in Auckland’s Queen St are among the 33 properties featured for sale and lease in Barfoot & Thompson Commercial’s latest Insite commercial property portfolio. 

“Eight of the portfolio properties for sale will go to auction while the remainder will be sold by tenders, deadline private treaties, direct negotiation and expressions of interest,” says Peter Churchill, commercial operations manager for the agency.

The portfolio includes office, retail and industrial offerings with seven of the properties to be sold on the North Shore and six in South Auckland. 

In the publication’s foreword, Churchill says local investor assurance seems undeterred by global events like the Greek-European Community financial crisis and share market volatility in China.

“Our market keeps moving along at full throttle with confidence out there appearing to be untouched by world events,” he says.

“So far this year our sales and leasing teams in our three commercial offices have achieved some phenomenal results for their clients including bare land sales – some of them large parcels – big industrial and commercial leases, and a number of great auction and tender results.

“Competition for ‘tidy’ commercial, industrial and retail investments at all price levels is intense. There is also no doubt that well executed sales campaigns in this market are achieving premium results.

“Leasing activity has also been robust. One of our agents recently conducted an expressions of interest campaign to lease a shop in Ponsonby and received four unconditional offers - one offering ‘key money’ to reserve the right to occupy the premises – and the winning party offered a rental far in excess of the owner’s original expectations.”

Churchill says vacancy levels in most industrial locations are also running at near historical lows as the market strains to cope with the fact that the construction of new developments has been minimal in recent years. 

He says the marketing of the shop sites on the St James Theatre site represents an excellent opportunity to acquire quality retail offerings at the upper end of Queen St where they can capture increasing business from the area’s “entertainment node” that surrounds the Aotea Centre - along with servicing the large inner city resident population growth that has occurred there.  

The six individual titled retail units at 302-322 Queen St are being marketed for sale via private treaty by Wayne Muir and Kim Loo of Barfoot & Thompson Commercial’s central Auckland office who are sole agents for the properties. Muir and Loo sold the St James site to the developer in July last year.

“After years of neglect, the former St James Theatre site is all set for a major transformation with a proposed 42 level tower to be known as St James Suites,” Muir says. “It will contain 308 luxurious apartments over 32 levels along with a 25 metre heated swimming pool and 195 car parks. The whole project is expected to be finished by mid 2018 and on completion will be one of Auckland City's most significant buildings. An integral part of the new build will be the restoration of the original St James Theatre.”

The retail outlets will occupy the street level and basement floors of the luxury apartment building.

With the majority of apartments presold, the developers have decided to release the limited ground level and basement retail units for sale.” Loo says the total lettable retail area on offer is 2351 sq m comprising 1134 sq m of ground level and 1217 sq m of basement retail space. The six retail units are available in separate titles ranging from 65 sq m on the street level to over 1000 sq m for a ground floor and basement unit.

Muir says the developers are prepared to make amendments to the existing floor plans to suit the requirements subject to space availability and other restrictions.

Current plans call for Unit 1 to have a total lettable area of 537 sq m comprising a ground level area of 312 sq m plus an additional mezzanine and storage area.

Unit 2 has the smallest floor area of 65 sq m and will be to the left side of the Queen St entrance to the St James Theatre; while Unit 3, to the right side of the entrance to the St James Theatre is 78 sq m.

Unit 4 comprises a rectangular shape of 164 sq m and Unit 5 is an L-shape rear area of 216 sq m.

Unit 6 encompasses ground level space of 74 sq m with elevator access to basement where it takes in a further area of 1217 sq m.

artists impression of street level shop frontages in the St James Suites Tower..jpg

Artist’s impression of the planned street level shops frontage of the St James Suites tower at 302-322 Queen St in which the six retail spaces are for sale.

All the freehold units can be purchased with vacant possession and have on average a double stud entrance ceiling height of six metres. 

Muir says the entire site will have two frontages and will run between Queen St and Lorne St. “The design incorporates a through-site link for pedestrian traffic which will feature the original St James Theatre foyer.” The retail design also includes loading facilities from Lorne St.

Loo says the units will be located at the heart of the busy ‘Golden Mile’ area of Queen St near around the major Wellesley intersection.

“They will be situated among major commercial, cultural and educational centres including the Aotea Centre, Events Cinema Complex, Auckland Central Library, Auckland Art Gallery, the University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology [AUT], Auckland Senior College, the Civic Theatre and right among major banks and retailers all fronting Queen Street nearby.”

Muir expects the retail units to generate keen interest from both investors and tenants with demand for Auckland’s Queen St retail space intensifying due to the fast increasing population and a growing tourism market.

“Demand has far outstripped the supply with rentals in prime retail strips along Queen Street pushing the $4000 per sq m barrier. Large floor plate retail space is even harder to secure,” he says.

“With opportunities to lease retail space on Queen Street now being few and far between, retailers need plan well ahead to secure suitable sites for future expansion. In this regard, the proposed St James Suites will be a landmark Auckland CBD building which we expect to attract high-end retailers keen on securing a presence in this site and having a good lead time to effectively plan their relocation. The large basement unit would be ideally suited to a bulk retailer like a supermarket.”

Muir says the sale of the six retail units present the chance for retailers to tap into a prime location with a high traffic and footfall count with a strong exposure to the city’s burgeoning education, business and entertainment hub.

“In keeping with the scale and quality of this new building, best permanent materials and finishes will be incorporated,” says Muir.

The street façade of the retail units will have stone walls on a precast concrete structure with glazed frontages and aluminium powder coated joinery.

The building will have automatic entry doors and aluminium louvres above a solid continuous canopy along the street frontage. 

The internal walls will be concrete block and fair faced concrete while the flooring will be broom finished to concrete ready for tenant fit out. The ceilings of the retail areas will be the underside of the building’s structural first floor. The mezzanine level will be access by balustrade and handrail stairs.

Three phase electrical wiring will be provided to each tenancy with a 12 watt TPN (triple pole with neutral) electrical distribution board sized to accommodate an incoming low voltage supply and located in a central location. A Chorus network fibre optic cable will be installed and each retail unit will have its toilet and wash basin.

A cold water supply pipe with check meters will also service in each unit along with a gas pulse sub-meter with non-venting regulators to the individual units. The retail spaces will be fitted with fire alarm and fire protection systems. 

302-322 Queen St, Auckland CBD - artists impression looking up Queen St.jpg

The proposed 42 level St James Suites tower at 302-322 Queen St depicted by an artist as seen within the Upper Queen St Auckland CBD skyline. (full View).

Peter, Wayne, Kim.jpg

From left to right: Peter Churchill, Wayne Muir and Kim Loo of Barfoot &Thompson.