Deep pockets fund painstaking restoration of the former National Bank
Seasoned property investors Patrick Fontein and Paul Naylor dug $1 million deeper into their pockets than originally expected during their painstaking restoration of the historic former National Bank building overlooking Victoria Square on the corner of Colombo Street in the Christchurch CBD.
“We’re hugely mindful that there are thousands of people in Christchurch who love this building and feel like they are pseudo owners of it so it was important for us to get it right," Fontein says.
"It takes such a long time to restore these heritage buildings and this complete refurbishment has cost us more than a new building. But we really love it and there are so few heritage buildings left in Christchurch. And, as a long-term investment, it ticks all the boxes."
The pair is so pleased with the completed refurbishment that they are opening it for the public to view on Wednesday, October 11, 4pm-6pm.
“Throughout the restoration, we wanted to make sure we treated the building very carefully - we take the responsibility to strengthen and refurbish this building very seriously.
"We want it to be special for the next 100 years. You only have one chance to really get it right, so we have taken longer, increased the scope of the work and upgraded much of the building to as new.”
It’s taken 18 months to strip the building back to its bones, bring the building up to 100 per cent of new building standard, replace virtually everything in the building to as new and to breathe new life into the 1926 building, at 779 Colombo Street.
“At the outset you look at the engineer’s report and we try to evaluate the likely costs," Fontein says.
"But there are so many unknowns. For instance, the scope of engineering work for this building increased 30 per cent during restoration, after the engineers determined there were more things that needed to be done."
Fully compliant with all current building standards, 779 Colombo Street has been virtually rebuilt from the inside out.
Now, together with Brynn Burrows of Colliers International, they’re seeking tenants or buyers for the upper three levels, which are being offered for lease or strata title sale. The ground floor has already been leased to a high-end restaurant, opening by next May.
Burrows says tenants are keen on fully restored heritage buildings because of their unique character.
“Heritage buildings really set themselves apart from all the new office developments in Christchurch and the huge amount of work that’s gone into this has made it timeless."
Fontein says his company, Auckland-based Studio D4, sees immense potential in the rebuild of the Christchurch CBD. Before the earthquakes, it developed two projects outside the CBD but has since been focusing around the Innovation Precinct.
The company previously launched the Vodafone and Kathmandu developments in Christchurch's Innovation Precinct, and restored the old Twisted Hop building on Lichfield St which reopened as hospitality hub Dux Central.
It has also developed the Innovation Precinct Carpark and is now developing the adjacent Lichfield Lane complex.
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