The Empire Hotel building on Queen St. PHOTO/BECKIE WILSON

Classic Queen St buildings to make way for development

 

Region’s long-term growth ‘exciting’

BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

A Kiwi furniture giant plans to demolish two Queen St buildings to make way for a new store on Masterton’s main street.

Big Save Furniture director Lily Salter confirmed on Wednesday it had purchased the two buildings, the Empire Hotel and its northern neighbour, from former Masterton mayor Garry Daniell, with the plan to build a new shop of “some significance”.

The store will include a café that opens on to the park containing the statue of ‘Russian Jack’.

The new store, up to 1000m2 in size, is expected to open early next year.

It will replace the two earthquake-prone buildings which house about six businesses, including Empire Lodge accommodation, ArrowFM, Taste Café, Wairarapa Vapez on Queen St, and the Masterton Foodbank at the rear of the building.

It is expected to take until October to complete the consent process, which will allow time for the tenants to vacate.

A statement issued by Big Save on Wednesday said Daniell had already begun the process of relocating some tenants.

Dave Borman. PHOTO/FILE

Masterton commercial developer David Borman has been employed as project manager for the new development.

Borman said the investment was “another milestone for Masterton”.

He said the buildings that had been purchased could not be saved.

“They were beyond repair.

“I would like to have saved the [Empire Hotel] building and we did look at the option, but we could not save it.”

The Empire Hotel building dates back more than 100 years.

After it was damaged in the 1942 earthquake, the licensing trust bought it as its flagship hotel in 1953.

The following year Queen Elizabeth II visited.

It was understood Daniell bought the buildings about 25 years ago.

Borman said the investment showed the town had “reached the scale” where another iconic Kiwi business had recognised the growth ahead for the region.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the investment marked an exciting time for Masterton.

“It demonstrates strong confidence in our economy and is great news for our community,” she said.

Masterton’s town centre would see some “significant changes” in the next few years.

It will undergo a “rejuvenation project” that with the addition of businesses such as Big Save, would bring more vibrancy into the centre.

Other “big-ticket projects” will follow as part of the upgrade, she said.

“We hope that iconic buildings can be retained, but the reality is that some of these buildings will need to go as public safety comes first.”

Wellington-based commercial real estate agent Chris Gollins said he spent three years persuading Big Save to open a store in Wairarapa.

“They said if they were to come it had to be Queen Street.”

“Garry’s properties are in the perfect spot for various reasons so that was easy enough but meeting David and seeing the quality of his projects was what finally convinced them to take the plunge,” said Gollins.

Salter said the store would be more convenient for Wairarapa customers who must currently travel to stores in Upper Hutt and Palmerston North.

“Now we can make life easier for them, showcasing our full range.”

The company also hoped to tap into the region’s housing boom which had seen 173 new house consents in Masterton in the 12 months to March, she said.

“Looking at the entire Wairarapa, we see the long-term growth in the area as exciting,” Salter said.