Britten family sells former State Insurance building

Young engineers buy former State Insurance building 'as is where is'

The buyers of the former State Insurance building on Worecster Street in Christchurch plan to restore it

Two young engineers have bought the Art Deco former State Insurance building on Worcester Street in Christchurch that was owned by the late John Britten.

They plan to strengthen and restore the landmark building, which was badly damaged in the earthquakes, and hope to release their plans for restoration and redevelopment in the New Year.

Courtney Doig, an Investment Sales Broker for Colliers International,
says the buyers currently prefer to remain anonymous until they finalise plans.

“They’re honoured to have the opportunity to repair this building and make it a functioning asset for Christchurch’s CDB once again.

“Knowing its architectural heritage and seeing John Britten’s famous attention to detail, where he added his touches to the building, adds an extra element of provenance that they want to retain.

“There’s so much potential for its future use, and they’ve been exploring a few different options.”

The Britten family has sold the landmark building near Cathedral Square for an undisclosed sum and is delighted that the legacy will be carried on.

The ‘as is where is’ property comprises two integrated buildings – one of seven levels dating back to the 1930s, with another of nine stories added in 1968.

Kirsteen Britten says her late husband, John, bought 116 Worcester Street in the 1990s.

“He loved the Art Deco design and other heritage features and wanted to protect it for the benefit of future generations. As a family we’ve decided that it’s time for someone else to revive this lovely old building and we’re excited to see what the new owners do.” 

Sitting on a land area of 874sq m, it has more than 7,918sq m of floor area, made up of ground floor retail and foyer space and eight levels of offices above. Zoned Central Business, this allows for a height limit of 28m – the largest allowable height for new development in Christchurch.

The Art Deco former State Insurance building has been sold by the family of the late John Britten

For approximately 10 years before the earthquakes, the building was occupied by the Design and Arts College.

Doig says the Britten family had wanted to ensure the building’s heritage was protected.

“The family is thrilled to see it go to safe hands - purchasers who recognise the unique Art Deco nature of the building - and they’re looking forward to seeing the building revived. 

“The buyers have engaged a talented Wellington architect who has specialised in similar projects and are confident he will do a stunning job to bring this superb building back to life. We have so few iconic buildings left, and this truly is one of a kind.”

Designed by Cecil Wood, a leading New Zealand architect of the period, in association with Paul Pascoe, a well-known Christchurch architect, the building was one of the more significant building projects of the time.

Built when New Zealand was still feeling the effects of the Depression, its construction reflected government policy at the time to stimulate industry by undertaking important public works. 

When it was built, the State Fire and Accident Insurance office occupied the ground floor; the first and second floors were occupied by the Lands and Deeds Department; and the Lands and Survey Department occupied the top two floors. Additional occupants in the 1990s included two language schools (around 1996-1998), Anglican Social Services (1993-4) and the Race Relations Commission and Human Rights Commission (1997). 

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