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Lower Hutt office block conversion paves the way for inner-city living

Media release, Matthew Tso, Stuff, 30 May 2022

The conversion of former office block in Lower Hutt into inner-city apartments is almost complete, the latest development to contribute to urban revitalisation in the area.

The top three storeys of the CML building on Laings Rd have been retrofitted into apartments and will be completed next month, with 29 of the 32 units sold off the plans last year.

The complex, developed by John Feast​ and Ian Cassels, has a 16 one-bedroom and 16 two-bedrooms units.

Two one-bedroom units remain unsold, while one of two penthouse apartments has been held back from sale until the project is finished.

The one-bedroom units started at around $400,000, while the two-bedroom-units sold in the mid-$600,000s. The remaining penthouse unit is expected to go for more than $700,000.

The development’s agent Sean Heyman, of Professionals Redcoats, said many buyers who recently found themselves priced out of traditional three bedroom homes were turning to apartments and higher density housing as affordable alternatives.

Built in 1959, the building's styling takes cues from Art Deco and modernist design. Feast said they’d tried to keep as much of its original character, such as the bronze window frames, as possible. Commercial spaces would be kept on the ground floor.

Within a few blocks are Cassels' 29-unit High Street Quarter, and another 40-apartment office conversion being built by Kevin Melville​. Cassels is also behind the conversion of the 10-storey Avalon Studios tower into a 68-unit apartment block further north.

"There has been an attitude change – people have suddenly realised there are huge benefits to living in the middle of the city," said Feast.

Feast said the final cost was not far off the original $10 million budget.

"We’re very pleased with it. It’s going to be ready within five or six weeks of the original deadline, which is good going considering the effects on the workforce by Covid," he said. "We started with a building that was about as bad as you can get. It was earthquake prone, there was asbestos, and it had a leaking roof."

The popularity of apartments in the CBD will be encouraging news for the Hutt City Council, which is overseeing the urban revitalisation part of the RiverLink project being undertaken in partnership with Waka Kotahi and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Other projects under the RiverLink umbrella include improving flood protection and an upgrade to transport infrastructure at Melling.

A series of apartment complexes are planned as part of the project. It is hoped they will bring hundreds of people into the central city which has been in decline for over a decade.