Hamilton East's vacant block sold

A prominent Hamilton East corner section has changed hands, with the new owners proposing to build an upmarket car dealership on the site.

Former owner Barry Livingston bought the property, on the corner of Clyde and Grey streets, in 2007 from the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions with the intention of building a retail and office complex on the busy corner.

But the project met vigorous opposition from some in the community incensed about the potential for traffic chaos and loss of the suburb's heritage.

A red brick wall on the site was demolished in 2009 while a group of mature oak trees was felled in 2007. Property records show Mr Livingston's company, 490 Grey Ltd, previously called Eastgate Central, sold the site to Tolian Properties Ltd in November last year.

Tolian Properties chairman Ben van den Engel, who is also managing director of Ebbett Waikato Group Ltd, confirmed the purchase but said he was not in a position to discuss plans for the vacant block.

The intention was to build an upmarket car dealership but the company had not yet got resource consent from Hamilton City Council.

''I'm obviously extremely enthusiastic but I also don't want to pre-empt any decision because it's certainly not a done deal,'' Mr van den Engel said. ''It's very sensitive and I don't want to be seen lobbying council through the back door on this.''

Hamilton East Community Trust chairwoman Lois Livingston said Barry Livingston contacted her last month to tell her of the land sale and the proposal to build a top-end car dealership.

''My attitude is if they want to work with the community and become part of the community then that's fine,'' Ms Livingston said.''The trust is about promoting Hamilton East and its development. 

''We can't turn back the clock and recreate the wall and trees, but hopefully we will get something that acknowledges the historical significance of that corner.''

Ms Livingston said an upmarket car dealership was a far better fit for the site than a retail and office complex, and would have less impact on traffic flows.

Hamilton City councillor Gordon Chesterman said the Tolian Properties' proposal represented an exciting opportunity for Hamilton East and was ''of a very high standard''.

''For someone with a deep interest in Hamilton East I have no objection to the quality of building that I understand is being planned for the site. It is several 100thper cent better than what [Barry] Livingston had planned for that site.

"Ebbett together with Ingham have made a contribution to really good buildings in the city. Cutting down the traffic is a major thing for me. It's an exciting opportunity to save the doorway to Hamilton East from what could have been a fate worse than death.''

Council communications advisor Stephanie Slattery said the corner site's current zoning was ''community facilities'' under the Operative District Plan but was proposed to be changed to a ''Business 5 Suburban Centre'' under the Proposed District Plan.