Bypass heritage buildings still empty

KRISTEN PATERSON
Last updated 09:01 22/11/2012
Heritage houses
AMY JACKMAN / The Wellingtonian
Concerned neighbour: Neave Fraser of the picture-framing business The Workshop in front of the old Bar Bodega.

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Several buildings in upper Willis St, some of them heritage-listed, remain empty five years after the opening of the controversial inner-city bypass.

Locals have complained about squatters and vandalism.

The old Bar Bodega, at 278 Willis St, is one of three heritage buildings that remain unsold by the NZ Transport Agency. They were bought and moved to make room for the bypass, now Karo Dr.

Neave Fraser, who owns neighbouring picture-framing business The Workshop, is glad other buildings nearby have been tenanted, but hopes something will happen with the old Bodega soon.

"It's tragic. It's such a beautiful building. They spent all this money doing it up, and now it feels like they've dropped the ball," Ms Fraser said.

On the other side of her shop, at 270 Willis St, the former Citron restaurant is also empty.

Business owners Rex and Wendy Morgan moved out in 2009 when the transport agency could not guarantee more than a month-to-month lease.

"We decided to pursue new opportunities," said Ms Morgan, now at Plentiful Deli in Marjoribanks St, Mt Victoria.

Ms Fraser said homeless people now took advantage of The Citron's veranda on warm nights and the backyard had become a drinking hotspot.

"It used to be a beautiful restaurant. Now it's just derelict. We've had bottles hurled, and one damaged our car," she said.

With new shops and apartments being built across the road, Ms Fraser said upper Willis St could turn into a happening area.

"But they need to deal with the old buildings. If they get done up, they'll get snapped up."

The 19 heritage buildings moved by NZ Transport Agency were offered for sale to the descendants of the original owners, then referred for assessment of iwi interests to the Office of Treaty Settlements.

After that, the agency put most of the buildings on the market.

Bar Bodega and the old Stagecraft Theatre were withdrawn temporarily in 2010 when the transport agency deemed the tender price too low.

Stagecraft Theatre, now on the corner of Karo Dr and Kensington St, was sold earlier this year.

However, the old Bodega remains off the market and, along with the heritage property at 130 Abel Smith St, is unlikely to be for sale for some time.

Transport agency communications manager Anthony Frith said the buildings would be retained during roading investigations for the Terrace Tunnel to Mt Victoria Tunnel improvements.

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The only other building in the area retained by the transport agency, at 30 Arthur St, is in the process of being sold.

In nearby upper Cuba St, however, the heritage buildings are bustling with activity.

The buildings moved by the agency to make way for the bypass have been done up and sold, and businesses, tenants and landscaping have transformed the area from its derelict state.

"We're pleased with all the sales, and believe that these restored historic buildings will revitalise this precinct," Mr Frith said.

 

- The Wellingtonian

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