Historic mill gets new lease of life
Work has started on a multimillion-dollar redevelopment of one of Christchurch’s last great industrial buildings.
The rundown 131-year-old Wood Brothers Mill complex in Addington has sat vacant and vandalised for years, but is about to be turned into offices, restaurants, apartments and a multipurpose theatre.
Structural engineer Michael King bought the complex – a fourstorey mill building and a twostorey grain store – for $2.5 million. Former owner John Cameron had been trying to sell the buildings for years, but four earlier sale-and-purchase agreements had fallen through.
King has an intimate knowledge of the heritage-listed mill buildings after working with previous developers on the project. When he heard the latest development had fallen over, he decided to step in and take ownership.
‘‘I could see it was going to languish forever. It had already languished for seven years.’’
King used equity in his home to fund the purchase. He also brought in a partner.
‘‘My wife thinks I’m crazy. I think I’m crazy, but it’s a good, fun crazy.’’
He took ownership on June 20 and work started on site that day.
The $8.5m development has been split into two stages to make it more affordable for King.
The first $2.5m stage was the conversion of the 1000-squaremetre mill building into offices, which King expected to complete by mid-December. A 1960s building linking the mill and the grain store was being demolished and would be replaced with a glass-and-steel structure housing an elevator, stairs, boardrooms and bathrooms.
King said he wanted to make the office space affordable and planned to lease it at up to $250 a square metre. He also planned to sell floors of the building. ‘‘We’re looking for creative, fun people to have some office space.’’
CoLab Architecture director Blair Paterson said the building would retain its industrial feel, with exposed brick work and hardwood beams.
The first stage would fund the second stage, expected to cost about $3.5m, which involved the grain store being converted into a mix of apartments, office space and small boutique restaurants.
The existing Mill Theatre, the former home of the Riccarton Players, would be redeveloped to include mezzanine layers, a balcony and a digital backdrop. The theatre would house up to 350 people and be suitable for theatre shows, movies, comedy shows and small concerts.
King has taken a big risk with the development, but said from a structural point of view the project was ‘‘straightforward’’ because there was almost no earthquake damage.
The building had been built to withstand substantial vibration from the milling operation.
‘‘It’s such a straightforward build. It’s not scary to me.’’
King received a $900,000 heritage incentive grant from the Christchurch City Council for the development.
Council heritage team leader Brendan Smyth said the buildings were extremely rare examples of large-scale early industrial buildings in Canterbury.
‘‘This is the last great industrial building in the city. There’s nothing of this scale any more.’’
The mill operated until the 1970s and since then the buildings have had various uses, including apartments and a motorcycle shop.