New building underway

  • Wanganui_Jeff-James

    November 2016
  • Wanganui_building-update

    November 2016

“Today is a momentous day,” Moore Stephens Markhams Wanganui practice manager Cathy Barrett said on a Tuesday in November.  “The builders are on site and construction of our new premises is underway.”

The firm’s former premises was demolished back in August and during the initial stages of demolition it became very apparent how damp the foundations were.  The building itself gave way to pressure very easily, which supported reports that it would not withstand a severe earthquake. The Moore Stephens Markhams team expected that building would start soon after demolition, but due to consultation and re-drawing, the build has been lengthened by eight weeks. June 2017 is now move-in date.

“We were on track for an early September start, but once the building came down, the Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust Board took an interest in the project, which resulted in a rethink and a re-submission of our plans to Council,” says Cathy.

“The former building on the corner of Wicksteed and Plymouth Streets that housed our firm was not listed as ‘historically significant’, and Council consent was granted for the new building and demolition went ahead as planned.

“There were also no problems with the design of the new premises, which was sympathetic to its Art Deco predecessor.  However the Heritage Trust believed the previous building was “prominent”, and so they showed some interest in our plans.

“People remember the building because of its 1930s design and proximity to the main street – it had a lovely character and the design for our new building definitely has a nod to that character,” explains Cathy.

The Heritage Trust suggested the new building be sited on the road frontage of the corner, rather than be set back from the road.  However, as Cathy explains, the location of the new building towards the back of the site was done specifically to accommodate the Council requirement for carparking.

“What ensued was further negotiation with the Council and new drawings to re-position the building closer to the road.  In order to do this, we realised we would need to forgoe some carparking space. Although we had been granted full consent and our design had been signed off by Council, we understood the connection the building had with the community and our focus was to foster a positive working relationship with the Council,” says Moore Stephens Markhams principal Nicola Gibbons.

The biggest change to the original plans came after a meeting between the firm’s principals, the Heritage Trust and the Council’s chief town planner.

“The original plans that were submitted were compliant, including providing the requisite 14 carparks.  But in their desire to see the building sited on the road frontage rather than nine metres back from the road, the Council gave a concession to have fewer carparks.  This isn’t a problem for us as there is plenty of free carparking available for our clients in the surrounding streets,” explains Nicola.

As a result of the negotiations, there has been a positive outcome for the firm in the new design. “Our office space has expanded by 102m2 to now 556m2,” says Cathy.  “It’s given us more space and the ability to put senior staff in larger rooms with meeting desks, and has also future-proofed the building for growth and staff expansion.”

Nicola says lessons have been learned about dealing with Council that others may benefit from.

“It has proven beneficial to keep the lines of communication open. Although we had been through the right channels in Council and all consents had been granted for us to proceed with our plans, as newcomers to such a significant project we discovered there is room for negotiation, such as with the carparking requirement.

“People shouldn’t be afraid to have conversations with Council and the Heritage Trust whilst still in the planning stage. They have proven that by getting together and discussing the issues, compromises can be reached that benefit everyone.”

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