IN PICTURES: Inside Telecom's new $280 million HQ

I had a quick tour around Telecom's new, $280 million corporate headquarters today, in Victoria St West in the Auckland CBD.

Telecom started moving into the new, building (really a campus of four low-rise buildings) on November 1.

So far, around 500 staff have moved in. By the end of the month, 2650 should be there (total capacity is 2700; all told, Telecom has around 8000 staff; there is also a new development in Willis St in Wellington; others are in call centres, including a major operation in Hamilton).

Telecom's corporate team, Telecom Retail, the Gen-i telco and ICT services division and Telecom Wholesale are all moving into the new building.

The complex was built by Manson TCLM for Telecom, with all the green mod-cons and 80% local furnishings, and Telecom took over nine 12-year leases on the site from November 1.

Across the four low-rise buildings, there are 28 floors, with a combined office space of 28,900 square metres, and total concrete floor space of 45,000 square metres.

There is, of course, the thorny issue of Telecom's possible structural separation into two, separately listed companies.

As the political situation has developed, Telecom has subtly changed its tune about which staff are moving into the new building. The number of Chorus (network division) staff has changed from "some" to "none."

Telecom Wholesale staff (who sell access to the network maintained by Chorus to all-comers) are in the new complex.

Previously, they were in a separate building.

Many would see Telecom Wholesale as more naturally allied with Chorus in any split. Telecom doesn't (see its official shareholder presentation here).

Mindful of the current operational separation, Telecom Wholesale staff have their own security access, and were quarantined during NBR's visit - although a number of Wholesalers, including marketing assistant Brett Thompson (left), looked on from above.

The Wholesale team can mix with others at the complex's series of cafes, which include a sushi joint and a Subway (NBR sees a special glass partition down the middle of the franchise, with Wholesale staff eating their sandwiches on one side, and Retail, Gen-i and so forth on the other).

The entrance is stunning. A huge, multi-story atrium, crisscrossed by gangways linking floors across the open space, looks like it was designed for an Andrew Niccol movie. Everyone who stands at the top of the stairs (see reverse view below) stops and stares in a hey-wow moment. It creates a positive vibe that's, well, totally at odds with the company's current commercial and political challenges.

Incidentally, it's your space too. Planning permission dictated that the block-spanning atrium be a public thoroughfare - so anyone can stroll through or and gawp, or buy a coffee.

Telecom's commercial property manager, Jim Robb, took the possibility of structural separation in his stride. Corporate property plans were always "set in jelly," said Mr Robb (at right in above picture), who added, dryly, that it would, at least, keep him in work.

Should Telecom's long-suffering shareholders freak out about the cost of the new digs? Mr Robb would not reveal the capital outlay, but did claim that over the 12-year lease, it would be less than the cost of shuffling new and restructured divisions between multiple buildings.

Telecom's Auckland real estate peaked with 11 buildings; it now has five and is vacating its old corporate headquarters off Karangahape Road. Chorus - which has just moved into a new office near the Hopetoun Alpha, is not the only major division with a separate presence  (the old Chorus space in Upper Queen Street has now been occupied by an expanding 2degrees, in the manner of a sea creature occupying an empty shell).

In the new office, there's everything from state-of-the-art smart meeting rooms, with wireless everything and all mod cons (including a Cisco Telepresence suite), to zany informal meeting spaces, such as the hanging pods pictured above, and the seventies chairs and, um, something-or-another wine barrels below.

Mr Robb also noted the contrast with Telecom's K-Road HQ, which become run-down, with "buggered lifts and malfunctioning air conditioning, threadbare carpets, and tatty everything. Upgrading it would have been a major investment - which is another reason why it was perfectly economic for Telecom to build the new campus.





What poor fools are moving into the K-Road complex?

But that's not any of the property executive's concern, Telecom's lease having expired on November 1.

But, Mr Robb was aware that Fairfax Media would be moving journalists into some of the space. There's also talk of the police taking the main Hereford Street building.

NBR has no comment on that one.

Overall, the space is airy and modern and very new millennium, but in lots of nooks and crannies there's art, or quirky art, that appears to throw back a couple of decades. To NBR's eyes, it works.

Mr Robb said Telecom had not purchased any art since the Gattung and Deane regime, which he called a different corporate time.

This above chair was not explained. It could be for state visits from Steven Joyce.

Then, of course, there are the more workaday spaces in the offices that ring the main atrium. 

Things are kept streamlined by every employee having their own locker, complete with these submarine type turny things.

What of the neighbours?

To the south what NBR is told is Les Mills gym.

The view north is dominated by Vodafone's main office on the Viaduct - which looks distant on this cellphone pic, but whose giant red letters actually seem to loom quite close through many windows.

To the east, ironically, in these time of talk of further separation, is NZ Post, from which Telecom was once hewn.

To the west, un-glamorously, are a couple of blocks of flats-cum-tract housing, whose residents will get a bird's eye view of many of the meeting rooms (and vice versa).

Below: the Telecom splat on the exterior, and a retail "concept store" within the campus.

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