Onehunga city block a four-decade labour of love

A whole city block in the heart of Onehunga is on the market for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Gloucester Industrial Park – a 1.18ha industrial site with potential for mixed-use development – is being marketed by Colliers International brokers Hamish West, Tim Wylie, Ben Cockram and Josh Coburn.

The high-profile corner site – bordered by Gloucester Park Road and Hill, Princes and Neilson streets – is close to major transport routes, the Onehunga waterfront, and the suburb’s main shopping strip.

From modest beginnings, it has been extensively developed by owner Warren Fountain, who first leased it from the then-Onehunga Borough Council in 1978.

The site now boasts three large blocks of units with 18 tenants spread across 14 titles, returning $827,188 plus GST per annum.

Fountain (pictured below) says the property was previously leased and occupied by J.J. Craig, who used it as a distribution yard for building and metal supplies. It was then leased by a large local brewery, which transferred the lease to Fountain.

But the reclaimed land was mostly undeveloped when Fountain took over the lease for his building company, which was one of the first to develop infill housing.

“We started off with a show home, office and cabinet-making premises, and the business grew from there,” he says.

“We built well-designed, prefabricated houses, including for the refinery project at Marsden Point. We’d have four under construction at a time, and truck one off a fortnight.”

As the company expanded, Fountain wanted to do more with the land. He was granted consent for the first stage of Gloucester Industrial Park in 1983.

He took a hands-on approach to the construction of the first three units, at the north of the site.

“I used to go out after work and get stuck into on the construction of those units, which were about 190sq m each. I had a mate from up north help me with the remaining six units to complete the first stage.”

The third and final stage was completed in 1988. A year later, the opportunity to buy the site came after the dissolution of the Onehunga Borough Council.

“I’d been trying to convince them to sell for years, but they were more interested in hiking the annual rent from $15,000 to $80,000 within the space of a decade,” Fountain says. 

“After the Auckland City Council took over, they sorted it out in no time at all. I finally struck a deal to buy the land for what seemed like a lot of money at the time.”

But there were difficult times ahead, as the 1987 stock market crash and 1992 property dip took their toll.

“Fortunately, buying the land freehold gave me flexibility and access to capital. We converted to individual unit titles and sold three when we needed more finance. I bought them all back later.”

Fountain remains a well-known figure around the site, having personally managed the units for nearly four decades.

But he says now is the right time to sell, so he can spend more time at home and at his family’s rural property at Mangawhai.

West says the sale is a once in a generation opportunity.

“For nearly four decades, this city block in the heart of Onehunga has been one man’s labour of love.

“Large private investments of this scale simply don’t come on the market that often.”

West says the property will be attractive to investors, as it offers a diversified income stream from 18 tenancies.

It is anchored by a well-run manufacturing company that has occupied the site since the mid-1980s and continues to expand. 

“The company is an ideal tenant for investors seeking steady returns from a growth company,” West says.

“Founded in 1978, it is a leading contract manufacturer of skincare cosmetics, and has some of the country’s leading brands and retailers among its clients.”

Gloucester Industrial Park offers a net lettable area of 5,738sq m across three blocks of units.

The site is essentially level, with ample car parking and well-maintained landscaping around all four street frontages.

Two internal roads offer drive-through access to all the units, with entrances on Gloucester Park Road and Hill Street.

The units are generally constructed of 125mm reinforced concrete slabs, concrete blocks, hardiflex and long run steel walls. The main structural frames are of steel portal with a stud of 5.6m to the knee. Each unit has toilet and kitchen facilities.

The site is just around the corner from State Highway 20, which will benefit from the completion of the Waterview Connection in April, and a short drive from the SH1 interchanges at Greenlane and Ellerslie-Panmure.

It is also a short five-minute stroll from Onehunga Mall and the Onehunga Train Station.

Colliers International site sales director Josh Coburn says Onehunga is undergoing a massive spike in intensification due to Auckland’s rapidly growing population.

“Much of the land close to Onehunga Mall has been rezoned from industrial to mixed use, allowing developers to revitalise the ageing industrial precinct with large-scale residential projects.”

Coburn says developers could draw on steady rental returns in the short-term, with a view to developing the site for residential use in the long term.

Offers by deadline private treaty close at 4pm on Wednesday, 22 March, unless sold prior.

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