Sa­lon hum­ming along nicely

The re­stored colo­nial villa on Grafton Rd rep­re­sents a ve­hi­cle for so­cial change. Ka­rina Abadia went to meet the group of com­mu­nity-minded peo­ple be­hind it.

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Peo­ple be­fore profit is the phi­los­o­phy be­hind the so­cial en­ter­prise Hum Sa­lon, based in a for­merly derelict villa in Grafton.

Rosy Ar­mitage, one of the founders of Fall­ing Ap­ple Trust, says: ‘‘We are for com­mu­nity profit rather than for fi­nan­cial profit. Our pri­or­ity is the stake­holder not the share­holder.’’

There’s a cof­fee shack on the front lawn and there are plans for a restau­rant and bar in­side.

While staff will be paid the profit will be fed back into the trust to sus­tain a myr­iad of arts, mu­sic and ed­u­ca­tional projects based in the villa.

Ms Ar­mitage was look­ing for an older build­ing with plenty of char­ac­ter and the her­itage build­ing at 123 Grafton Rd fit the bill per­fectly.

Among its former oc­cu­pants was Auck­land City en­gi­neer WE Bush who su­per­vised the build­ing of Grafton Bridge in 1910. It has also been used by the Sal­va­tion Army as a half­way house for drug and al­co­hol re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

The group was able to strike a deal with the owner to ren­o­vate the villa rent-free and take a long-term lease un­til 2033 with first right to pur­chase.

The fact the villa had been derelict for eight years did not put them off be­cause they had what oth­ers did not – peo­ple power.

The first phase of works was es­ti­mated to be worth around $500,000 but costs were kept low with help from more than 250 New Zealand and in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teeers.

This ap­proach fos­ters a sense of com­mu­nity, the Grey Lynn res­i­dent says.

‘‘Peo­ple are so dis­con­nected at the moment. The restora­tion of a build­ing is the per­fect way to bring the com­mu­nity to­gether be­cause they work along­side peo­ple who they wouldn’t usu­ally meet.’’

On Jan­uary 31 the con­struc­tion wrap­ping came off and on Fe­bru­ary 2 the lo­cal com­mu­nity was in­vited to mark the end of the first year of ren­o­va­tions. Peo­ple from all walks of life turned up, she says.

‘‘It’s about us­ing old-school meth­ods of get­ting peo­ple to con­gre­gate, cel­e­brat­ing the arts and hav­ing a good time. Our back­yard party was ex­actly that.’’

For the next phase of works they need to fundraise at least $850,000.

This is to kit out the in­te­rior with a restau­rant-cafe which will source lo­cal and sea­sonal pro­duce and a bar sell­ing non-branded al­co­hol.

A gallery space will dis­play works by lo­cal artists.

With an amend­ment to the re­source con­sent ap­proved, there are plans to build decks and tiered gar­dens, ex­tend the kitchen and im­prove mo­bil­ity ac­cess by con­struct­ing a lift be­tween the two storeys. They would also like to take the house off the elec­tric­ity grid.

There will be an in­de­pen­dent me­dia cen­tre up­stairs where din­ner dis­cus­sions in­volv­ing ex­perts from dif­fer­ent fields of thought will be held. A team of re­searchers and jour­nal­ists will con­trib­ute to the web­site.

The aim is to bring peo­ple and ideas to­gether but in a way that isn’t ‘‘preachy’’, she says.

It is a huge job but the 36-yearold, who has a back­ground in mar­ket­ing, event man­age­ment and run­ning restau­rants, says the col­lec­tive will make it all pos­si­ble.

‘‘There’s still a lot of work to do but the num­ber of peo­ple who be­lieve in the project just keeps you go­ing.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Com­mu­nity first: Rosy Ar­mitage be­lieves in sup­port­ing the lo­cal arts through a so­cial profit rather than fi­nan­cial profit frame­work.

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz to watch a video of Ms Ar­mitage giv­ing a tour of the villa.

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