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Reigniting the CBD

Turning empty city centre upper floors into apartments.

There is an estimated 17,000 square feet of empty upstairs space in Gisborne’s city centre.

That’s the size of more than three football fields — or about 200 apartments.

At a time when housing demand is at an all-time high, McCannics owner Robbie McCann says turning the upper floors of the central business district into living spaces would also help reignite Gisborne’s central city.

“All these buildings are empty on the first floor. There are people living in the inner city but there have never been enough.”

Mr McCann said one of the dangers businesses faced was if there were not more people living in the inner city it could create empty shops.

“The last thing you need in this town is for this to happen and you get a ghost town.

“What we want to do is bring people into the CBD. We’re trying to reignite the CBD.”

Mr McCann said cities like Whakatane and Hamilton had retail hubs outside of the city centre.

“It draws people away from the city centre. We want to make Gisborne’s CBD the hub.

Having big stores out of the CBD means the city will lose national tenants in the city centre.”

McCannics has just finished a complete upgrade, earthquake-strengthening and refurbishment of the space above The Cooperative Bank on the corner of Peel Street and Gladstone Road.

The former offices are now five new apartments — with eight bedrooms — which will be on the market soon after the final paperwork is signed off with Gisborne District Council.

There is a lift, full camera and alarm security.

The apartments will be fully furnished so as to avoid furniture having to be moved in and out.

Mr McCann has other yet-to-be-revealed plans in the pipeline to breathe life back into the city.

McCannics project and construction manager Brett Parker said there was no demand for office space in Gisborne but there was a high demand for housing.

Mr Parker was instrumental in ensuring each apartment worked within the space and configuration of the building. He also made sure its heritage — including curved windows — stayed true to the era, with most of the internal timber surrounds retained.

For areas where the timber could not be saved, Mr Parker contracted Awapuni Joinery to recreate the same look.

They made sure to always use local businesses, builders and contractors, he said.

The interiors of the apartments were designed by McCannics financial and administration manager Karen McCann, who personally sourced every feature from floor to ceiling to fit the image she had in her head.

Mrs McCann said she kept the tones neutral so tenants could add their own individual colours through soft furnishings.

Every detail has been thought of in these high-end apartments down to custom-made steel trays under every shower so there is “no way” they can leak, plus little touches like USB ports beside the electric plug sockets in bedrooms, which are fully air-conditioned.

Next up for McCannics is converting the space above the Perfect Roast on the main street and it is also helping refurbish the old apartment above Verve Café on Gladstone Road.

Mr McCann said the council had been helpful with the build.

Gisborne District Council building services manager Ian Petty said there had been quite a few queries lately about doing up city centre upper floors as apartments.

“One of the things we look at is whether it’s a change of use or not, and it’s not.”

Mr Petty said when the buildings were built in the 1920s the upper floors were originally apartments. It was just a matter of tidying up the spaces already there.

Over the years there had been sporadic use of the space as offices but these had largely sat empty for decades.

IS THIS AN ANSWER TO GISBORNE’S HOUSING SHORTAGE?: The McCannics team who want to breathe new life back into Gisborne’s city centre stand in one of five new downtown apartments that will soon be unveiled on the property market. From left are Karen McCann, Robbie McCann and Brett Parker. Gisborne has a housing shortage, and a huge amount of empty space on the upper floors of the city centre’s buildings.Picture by Liam Clayton

  1. Tina says:

    That’s Awesome 👌
    I’d be keen to stay in those apartments, close to everything 🙂

  2. Mathew Bannister says:

    Intensification of housing within the existing footprint of the city achieves many goods.
    It removes the need for new infrastructure
    It provides additional rates income for GDC
    It reduces the transport costs if you work in the CBD
    No more productive land is consumed for housing
    Provides more patrons for local businesses

    Cities thrive when they start to provide a range of living arrangements in order to meet the needs of a growing and diverse population