Re­build gets the all clear

PEO­PLE’S VER­DICT: WE LIKE IT

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By TARANNUM SHAIKH

PLANS to add 14 storeys to a his­toric Auck­land build­ing have been given the all clear by the New Zealand His­toric Places Trust but not all its mem­bers are happy with the idea.

The 1884 Wong Doo build­ing at 168 Hob­son St is set to be re­fur­bished by the Auck­land Coun­cil through its Built Her­itage Ac­qui­si­tion Fund.

The build­ing has been un­oc­cu­pied for years, and the coun­cil will work with its new own­ers KNC Con­struc­tion to save it.

The plans will see a 14-storey res­i­den­tial and re­tail com­plex built par­tially on top of the struc­ture.

The own­ers’ orig­i­nal plan was to tear the build­ing down.

The new com­plex will be an apart­ment tower while the Wong Doo build­ing will have a range of of­fices and re­tail shops.

Auck­land Coun­cil her­itage man­ager Noel Rear­don says the plan is a com­pro­mise that al­lows the his­toric part of the build­ing to be saved.

‘‘Be­cause the own­ers wouldn’t sell the build­ing to us, restor­ing it and build­ing some­thing new was the next best thing to buy­ing the build­ing to re­tain it.’’

But NZ His­toric Places Trust board mem­ber Al­lan Mat­son is ap­palled.

‘‘It looks dread­ful. It’s such a blunt, un­so­phis­ti­cated ar­chi­tec­tural re­sponse.’’

When the NZ His­toric Places Trust agreed to en­dorse the new com­plex he was a lone voice of op­po­si­tion, he says.

‘‘I just won­der what anal­y­sis, if any, has the His­toric Places Trust made to come to this con­clu­sion. I’m at a loss to see why they would agree to that.’’

The NZ His­toric Places Trust says the de­ci­sion to sup­port the coun­cil comes from a de­sire to keep the orig­i­nal struc­ture. It will be work­ing closely with the coun­cil on the pro­ject.

Mayor Len Brown says the pro­ject ticks sev­eral boxes.

‘‘We are sav­ing a piece of Auck­land his­tory as part of a pro­ject which will in­ject new in­vest­ment, re­tail and res­i­den­tial use into an area which needs re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion.’’

The Wong Doo fam­ily took over the build­ing in 1940 and opened a tex­tiles and fire­works busi­ness.

The site car­ries strong sig­nif­i­cance for the grow­ing Chi­nese com­mu­nity.

‘‘I think it was a fo­cal point in the week­ends for the Wong Doo clan,’’ Thomas Wong Doo III says.

‘‘We would have 20 to 30 peo­ple over for din­ner in the build­ing. When any of the Wong fam­ily would come to Auck­land they nat­u­rally grav­i­tated to­wards us.’’

The 88-year-old be­lieves the change will be good for the Auck­land CBD.

‘‘[Our fam­ily] is very thrilled. The old build­ing brings back lots of mem­o­ries. In a mod­ern city it helps bring back the past.’’

Auck­land CBD res­i­dent Paolo Rossi says it is vi­tal to find a way keep the old build­ing.

‘‘The most im­por­tant thing is that they save the orig­i­nal build­ing.

‘‘We need com­pro­mise.’’

Work is planned to be­gin next year and will take a year to com­plete.

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