City's billion-dollar building boom
More cranes will be rising over the Waikato, with construction firms forecasting a great year. Daniel Adams reports.
Hamilton is enjoying a billion-dollar development boom with construction companies reporting huge work programmes for this year that are likely to spread economic benefits around the city.
The Waikato Times has identified nearly 30 big commercial construction projects under way or being considered, with several new central city mid-rise office towers, retail and hotel developments edging closer to construction.
And the city's commercial builders are profiting, with several reporting tens of millions of dollars worth of construction work already locked in for this year.
Foster Construction is completing Centre Place's $40m renovation for Kiwi Income Property Trust and a four-storey office tower - Project Grantham.
Foster's director Colin Wade said the company already had at least $40m of work on its books for this year, which was shaping up as its best year since 2008.
Livingstone director David Livingstone said this year was looking "fantastic" for the company, with $45m of Waikato work confirmed already.
"Things really started looking up last year and it's continued into this year, things are a lot more buoyant and there's confidence out there," he said.
Watts & Hughes construction director Mark Gutry said the company did well last year but this year was looking "significantly" better, with several "commercial and accommodation" projects that were still commercially sensitive looming among a city work programme worth up to $50m.
The firm has just completed a $2.3m Bryce St mixed-use development for Tainui Group Holdings, and has $8m worth of work at Bridge St Countdown.
"It's extremely buoyant at the moment. The level of inquiry is superb, and the forward workload and opportunities in front of us are significant."
While it can be difficult to pin down development values, enough are now nearing completion or progressed sufficiently to say with confidence that easily a billion dollars' worth is under way or close to starting in the city.
Council planning bosses say the city is reaping dividends from continued big spending by central and local government through recent lean times.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into the city and wider economy in the past few years, building the Waikato Expressway and other roads, the Waikato Hospital redevelopment, and city council projects.
City environments general manager Brian Croad said spending was now proving a springboard, luring investors and creating momentum.
Mr Croad said that while the council was looking to improve its intelligence of the development market, many projects by commercial necessity were typically worked on for substantial periods before reaching the ears of the council.
There were also often long lead-times from conception to construction, so some proposals were known about but still beyond the two-year horizon.
Well-known residential developer Ian Patton has confirmed early plans for the current Biddy Mulligans site on north Victoria St, which he owns.
The building is among those with earthquake strengthening issues and Mr Patton said the Christchurch earthquakes had fast-tracked his planning. While rumours had already begun to circulate about an ambitious six or seven-storey office and hotel on the site, he said the project, which had long been on the drawing board, was still likely to be two years away from a start.
What's planned in the CBD, see A2