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Still too big for St Heliers?

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2013
Scott Brown
JASON OXENHAM/ Fairfax NZ
BUSINESS BOOMING: The controversial building on the corner of Maheke St and Tamaki Dr now houses a bustling cafe co-owned by Scott Brown and Jackie Grant.

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The building dubbed the Maheke Monster has a new tenant.

The opening of a cafe on the corner of Maheke Rd and Tamaki Dr has brought mixed reactions in St Heliers.

Property developer Robin Sheffield met strong opposition throughout the consent and construction process from Save Our St Heliers, a group that advocates for the preservation of the heritage and character of the village.

The group objects to the style and size of the three-storey building and chairwoman Sally Hughes says public opinion has not softened over time.

"We still feel the building is out of place at a seaside village."

The group regularly sets up a stand where passers-by are asked what they think of the building and what they want for the future of St Heliers.

"Overwhelmingly people say they still aren't happy with it and they don't want to see any more buildings like it."

St Heliers Bay Village Association manager Wendy Caspersonn disagrees, saying having the site occupied is good for the community.

"Just having it open and something happening there is fabulous.

"People seem to have accepted the building and are very happy to see some life in it."

The East & Bays Courier asked shoppers in St Heliers what they think.

Mission Bay resident Heather Falkenstein says she was never opposed to it:

"I think it will be the trend for future buildings whether people like it or not. Commercially we've got to put up higher buildings to make them viable."

Stef Haworth of Kohimarama says: "I understand people don't like the building but in the long run the cafe is going to bring more money into the village. People who go there are likely to come into the township too."

St Heliers-Glendowie residents association president Keith Savory says the building is an "eyesore" and he was opposed to its construction but has no quarrel with the cafe.

Cafe co-owner Scott Brown says people have expressed similar views in the month the cafe has been open.

"I think a lot of people who were opposed to the building have accepted it is not going away and are enjoying the ambience of the cafe.

"We always set ourselves a very high standard and the negative reaction to the building has given us the impetus to do a really world-class job."

Mr Brown and partner Jackie Grant run several cafes including the Takapuna Beach Cafe and Store.

"During the planning stages in Takapuna there was a minority of locals who didn't like what we were doing. But when we opened, the community came to love it."

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Keeping up with demand in St Heliers is a challenge.

"Business is great.

"There is an hour-long wait for tables every evening," he says.

Mr Sheffield is pleased with his development.

"Everybody has their own opinion but I'm very happy with the result," he says.

THE DESIGN

The complex has a public courtyard containing a large wind-driven sculpture. Seedling was designed by Grant Williams and won the 2006 People's Choice Award at New Zealand Sculpture OnShore. It is made of stainless steel and fibreglass and was purchased by Mr Sheffield specifically for the site. He encourages people to enjoy the courtyard. "It's a pretty impressive sculpture," he says. "It is raised off the street level so people can sit on the seats that are there and take in the sea view." 

- East And Bays Courier

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