St James apartment sales gallop ahead with little promotion

More than 170 apartments in Auckland’s mid-city St James Theatre development have been sold but it's not enough yet to trigger bank funding for the $175 million 39-storey tower.

The apartments were sold without commercial advertising or a display suite to entice buyers and have been bought mainly by Auckland owner-occupiers and investors, with 20% going to buyers in China.

Banks usually need 60% pre-sales before they will fund a major apartment development.

Developer Relianz Holdings’ development director Mike Gibbon doesn’t believe it will take long to reach banks’ funding thresholds and is planning to start demolition work of existing buildings at the end of the year and site preparation in early 2016.

Relianz is the development company of the Li family, Chinese immigrants who have been in New Zealand for 25 years. The family bought the crumbling theatre complex from developer Paul Doole for more than $30 million last year and decided to use the apartment development consent but reduce the number of units from 330 to 307 and restore the theatre. 

Wrapping in an L-shape around the historic St James Theatre opposite the Civic Theatre on Queen St, the apartment development will contain 170-one bedroom, 120 two-bedroom units and 16 three-bedroom units, 195 car parks and 2000sq m of retail. The apartments start at 48sq m, including the balcony, and are priced between $500,000 and $1 million.

A two-bedroom 75sq m display suite to help with the remaining sales will be opened tomorrow and four real estate agencies have been appointed to market the development, which takes up a mid-city block.

St James Theatre has lain abandoned since 2007 and the grade one listed historic building will be restored and opened progressively as a separate project. Mr Gibbon says the theatre needs earthquake strengthening before any restoration can begin. “The strengthening work won’t begin until we have finished the demolition for the apartment project.”

The three-level theatre will be opened one level at a time while it undergoes restoration. Mr Gibbon says the main aim is to find as much as the original fabric of the theatre and foyer as possible and reinstate it where it was initially built.

Evaluation of the theatre to establish the scope of work will be finished in the middle of the year.

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