Developers scrap over-50s high rise

ARTIST'S IMPRESSION: The planned Xanadu apartment complex for over 50s that has now been canned.
ARTIST'S IMPRESSION: The planned Xanadu apartment complex for over 50s that has now been canned.

Controversial plans for an Auckland apartment development that would be restricted to buyers aged 50-plus have fallen over.

The Xanadu apartment complex planned for Union St on Auckland's CBD fringe was to have incorporated 182 apartments and 300 carparks spread between three towers blocks.

The project was to be aimed at baby boomers and covenants on the apartment titles were to have been used to restrict who could buy and live in the apartments by requiring the principal resident, whether they were an owner or a tenant, to be at least 50 years old.

Such concepts are already relatively common but are usually only found in low-rise, suburban residential developments known as lifestyle villages.

But Xanadu was believed to have been the first time the concept had been applied to an Auckland CBD apartment project.

However the promoters of the scheme have pulled the plug on the project after it failed to hit its sales target.

Xanadu was the brainchild of Virgil Roberts of Fresh Realty, a company specialising in project marketing.

"It is the vision of Virgil Roberts, who has sold apartments and projects in Auckland City for two decades, and who understood this is an idea whose time has come," the Xanadu website set up to promote the project said.

However the website is no longer functioning and the site of the project, occupied by several low-rise commercial buildings, has been put back up for sale through CBRE.

"We will not be going ahead on the Union St site, as there are timing and target milestones we have not met and we need to be practical about our ongoing investment in the project at this time," Roberts said.

He blamed the project's location

for its lack of success.

The site is high on the Union St ridge, which would afford excellent views across the city towards the harbour bridge from its upper levels, but which also overlooked the motorway on one side.

There was also uncertainty about the future of a neighbouring site, which currently accommodated a Placemakers outlet and many of the 50-plus generation may have found the CBD location a little "too edgy" for their liking, Roberts said.

However, it seems likely that apartments will still be developed on the site, but without the 50-plus age restrictions in place.

Warren Hutt, the capital markets director of CBRE, who has been marketing the property since the Xanadu concept was canned, said consents for the 182 apartment complex envisaged by Roberts were already in place, which would allow work to get under way relatively quickly with new developers.

Hutt said the groups interested in the property included several from this country, some from Australia and others from further afield, all keen on the idea of developing apartments on the site.

"It lends itself quite nicely to apartments," Hutt said.

"The site affords nice city views and faces north-west and gets great sun.

"And the Placemakers site in front was purchased by the council's reserves fund, so at some stage it will become a reserve."

New developers would have three options available to them to develop apartments, he said.

They could scrap the existing three-tower concept completely and come up with something new, in which case they would also need to go through the consent process from the beginning, which would be time-consuming.

They could utilise the existing plans and consent, or they could modify the existing plans slightly and seek a variation to the consent.

Hutt felt the third option would be the most likely.

He felt some of the apartments in the original Xanadu plans were too expensive.

"Some of the two-bedroom units were getting up to about 90 square metres, which makes the price a bit high," he said.

It was likely that new developers would seek to make some of the apartments smaller, which would bring the price down, and also allow slightly more apartments to be built in the complex, potentially improving its development margin.

Hutt said the most likely buyers for the apartments would be young professional couples who didn't want to buy a property in the suburbs.

However, Roberts hasn't given up on his idea of an apartment complex for the over-50s and said he was looking at other potential sites.

The Union St site is the second property that Hutt has been involved with recently that will likely have apartments built on it.

He has also marketed an older office building near the Horse & Trap tavern in Eden Terrace, which is also earmarked for redevelopment.

The property on Enfield St comprised an older building with seismic strength issues and a large adjacent car park.

Zoning in the area allows for mixed-use development and the property was marketed for sale with a concept plan for a complex of 67 apartments with 1344 sqm of retail space on the ground floor.

Hutt said the property was now under contract and the potential buyer was conducting due diligence.

Sunday Star Times