Block party

On a patch of Auck­land’s Karanga­hape Road – mo­tor­way in one di­rec­tion, the car yards of Great North Road in the other – a hand­ful of small busi­nesses show how gen­tri­fi­ca­tion should be done.

HOME Magazine NZ - - Art & Design - Text Si­mon Far­rell-Green Pho­tog­ra­phy David Straight

Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion done well on K Rd

Auck­land’s K Road has had its ups and downs. What was once the grand­est strip in Auck­land, on the city’s high­est ridge, spent much of the 20th cen­tury in de­cline, with fine old build­ings set­tling into a not-so-el­e­gant dis­so­lu­tion. For the past 20 years, the street has very slowly gen­tri­fied, as art gal­leries and bou­tiques, cafes and bistros have opened up. But one small block never seemed to change – un­til re­cently, when a hand­ful of busi­nesses moved in, at­tracted by rea­son­able rents, high ceil­ings and a sense of com­mu­nity. On the block east of Ed­in­burgh St, sex shops and booze shops and a mono­gram com­pany that made patches for gangs have been re­placed by a cake shop, a hair­dresser, a cafe and a cou­ple of art gal­leries. “I just wanted a kitchen that I could bake in and a small shopfront,” says Jor­dan Ron­del of The Caker of her move to the strip, three and a bit years ago. “I didn’t want a cute cake shop.” Ron­del and her staff re­cently moved a cou­ple of doors up, to a larger space di­vided by tall white cur­tains with big win­dows that look out to the street. “I love the oxy­moron, the con­tra­dic­tion be­tween th­ese beau­ti­ful sweet cakes and the gritty K Road peo­ple,” she says. “Peo­ple com­plain when they can’t find a park. And I think, oh well, it works.” Re­plac­ing The Caker is Daily Daily, whose owner Al­bert Yen had watched this block for a year or so be­fore he signed the lease. He serves sin­gle-ori­gin cof­fee and espresso and snacks in a gen­tle, el­e­gant, nar­row space with scrubbed tim­ber boards, macro­carpa lean­ers and fur­ni­ture de­signed by Brad Balle, an old school friend. “I wanted a con­trast,” he says. “I wanted it to be calm, re­lax­ing, quiet. A bit like Ja­pan – their cafes are re­ally quiet; you can barely hear the next ta­ble. Once the door is closed, you feel like you’re away from ev­ery­thing.” An­other cou­ple of doors away, Me­lanie Roger Gallery – pre­vi­ously of Herne Bay – opened here ear­lier this year. “We moved to be closer to other gal­leries,” she says, “and to be more a part of the K Road cre­ative district.” And at num­ber 466 is hair salon Colleen, owned by Lau­ren Gunn, who used to run a salon in Pon­sonby. When it came to start­ing her own busi­ness, she knew where she wanted to be. “The area is very close to my heart,” she says of the block. “It’s a true neigh­bour­hood – ev­ery­one’s out on the street on K Road, there’s not so much zip­ping around in your car.” Gunn has been in-situ for a year or so, af­ter an ex­ten­sive re­fit by ar­chi­tect Sue Hillery that in­volved do­ing as much as pos­si­ble to make it look like noth­ing had been done at all. The pre­vi­ous ten­ants had been there for 30 years, paint­ing around their fur­ni­ture in dif­fer­ent shades. “I had a paint­ing by Willem de Koon­ing as a ref­er­ence, which I’d had for a very long time. I walked in and it looked pretty much like the paint­ing.” Colleen – along with Ron­del and Roger – was helped by land­lord Pa­trick Daly who has slowly been buy­ing up and restor­ing shopfronts and stu­dio spa­ces along the stretch and leas­ing them to young cre­atives. “I said no to many ten­ants,” says Daly. “It has meant I’ve had va­can­cies – but it was im­por­tant to get the right mix.” It’s a finely grained sort of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, which sits com­fort­ably next to the ex­ist­ing char­ac­ter of the area. To­gether, the block of­fers hope that small spa­ces in her­itage build­ings can foster new busi­nesses with­out los­ing the charm of what made it pos­si­ble for them to be there in the first place. “It was the build­ing,” says Gunn, of what drew her to the space. “The light is in­cred­i­ble and you can see out to the har­bour. It feels like the past is be­ing res­ur­rected.”

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