Rebuild gets the all clear
PEOPLE’S VERDICT: WE LIKE IT
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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