Iconic Christchurch heritage building on the market for the first time

Former Post Office a 'damn fine building' but owner decides to move on 

One of Christchurch CBD’s few remaining heritage buildings, the iconic Art Deco Post Office Building on the corner of High and Tuam streets, is being sold.

It is the first time the former government-owned building has ever come to the market.

Scheduled as a 'highly significant building' in the Christchurch District Plan, it has been owned by Paul and Mary Stewart, the founders of Alice In Videoland, since the late 1980s after they took up an option to buy the building when the Government decided to sell down.

“We were tenants in the front, where C1 Espresso is now for about five years, and during that time I realised what a truly magnificent building it was.

“It was incredibly run down at the time but we were able to use a heritage grant to help tidy it up. That was really the start of the revival of High Street in those days.”

The Post Office, located at 209 Tuam Street, was built in 1932 as the central telegraph office of Christchurch, and Stewart has revived the Post and Telegraph Office name using old photographs and the original rivets that held the first sign.

Stewart says the Post Office was originally designed as a brick building but, following the Napier earthquake, the Government changed the specifications to reinforced concrete. It was an expensive build at the time, costing 24,000 pounds. 

Reflecting the strength of the build, it is 75 per cent of the New Building Standard, introduced after the Canterbury earthquakes. It was relatively unscathed after the February 2011 earthquake and only required cosmetic repairs.

When it reopened, Alice’s moved to the Tuam Street annex to accommodate the cinemas and C1 Espresso took over the front tenancy.

“It was about several months before I finally was allowed into the building to have a good look around. We didn’t know for a long time what sort of shape it was in and if there was damage that couldn’t be seen. But it’s built like no tomorrow. It’s a damn fine building. I think it will go on for hundreds of years but for us, it’s time to hand on the marble.”

Stewart says he has some other projects he wants to complete, so has decided to sell. Alice’s, which his two sons are now running, has a new 10-year lease in place with two further rights of renewal of five years each.

Investment brokers Courtney Doig and Hamish Doig, of Colliers International, are marketing the building, which will be auctioned on March 8.

It will be sold with vacant possession on levels two and three, with the floor areas covering 205.39sq m apiece.

Courtney Doig says the central city mixed use zoning means the two upper levels could be converted to inner city apartments.

“They’re fantastic spaces and there’s a wonderful spiral staircase leading to a rooftop terrace that has views right around the city," she says.

"With such good strong tenants at street level, any buyer can put their own stamp on the building because of the other two floors being vacant.

"It has the flexibility to cater for a wide range of tenancies with regular, usable floor plates, great natural light, high ceilings and stunning ornate features.

"It’s an unusual opportunity to be able to buy a heritage building in the CBD now, most particularly one in such beautiful condition. It’s a real trophy asset.”

The freehold four-level building sits on 677sq m of land.

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