An ambitious plan to develop what may be central Hamilton’s first purpose-built multi-use apartment building is taking shape on Tristram Street.
The five-storey Parkhaven building will house a cafe and retail on the ground floor, and office space and 21 apartments above.
The building opposite Founders Theatre and close to Seddon Park is due for completion in December, with the developers keen to play their part in enhancing urban design in Hamilton.
“We are really passionate about density and revitalising the city,” says BCD Group commercial manager and CFO Mitch Mace.
“We were keen to do something pretty cool, something different for Hamilton and use the skills at our disposal by going up.”
The development came about because BCD, a Hamilton-based engineering and planning firm, was outgrowing its current office, a few metres from where the new building is going up. The Department of Corrections, which had been based on the site, moved out, and BCD could see the potential.
The $14.5 million development meshes with a council plan to make the area north of London Street high density, and gives BCD the chance to become the anchor tenant in an office space of their own design. Mixed use development has long been successful in the likes of Toronto, New York & Melbourne by providing facility to “live, work, and play”. It is starting to gain traction in cities like Auckland and Tauranga and the development team were of the view that now is the time for Hamilton to embrace the concept also.
The process for Parkhaven started in 2016. They were able to build on the experience particularly of their founding director Blair Currie who has worked with the likes of Stark Construction, CBD Developments and Foster Develop on buildings around the city. The developers’ approach was to get the building fully documented and the design team around the table before getting it priced up.
Hamilton architect Brian White says that approach made the project “fantastic” to work on.
“Part of it for us is working with BCD. It was a bit of a model project in terms of process.
“They had everyone around the table really early, there was good communication. All the consultant team were on board right at the outset, so we had quite good information from everyone to coordinate with our [design]package. It sounds pretty basic but it often doesn’t happen that way.”
Mitch mentions that there are a lot of talented consultants in Hamilton and it was important to the development team that all the consultants were locally based so the result could be a showcase for what talent in the region could achieve.
“The efficient design that resulted was achieved by the Edwards White team and engineers working closely together early in the process, which allowed sensible structural design while not compromising the overall architectural vision.”
“Often in developments compromises are made along the way. From our concept we pretty much made none, only minor tweaks.”
Brian White says it was clear they wanted to build something of value. “Blair gave us all a bit of a pep talk at the start and he was really clear about his aspirations for the project, that he wanted to do something good, something that was perhaps a little bit more than what else was being offered.”
That means, for instance, air conditioning is individually ducted from the roof, rather than units being placed on balconies, and also involves taking care with the acoustics to minimise noise from neighbours. On the top floor apartments, high windows allow light to come in from above
The architects worked with modules to help build the plan. “The bathrooms worked to a typical module, the kitchens have a bit of a module as well, and I guess from our perspective we can put a little bit more effort and energy into really refining those elements, rather than spreading yourself thin over 20 different varieties of kitchen,” Brian says.
“We were interested in creating something that interacted with the street so it’s got a reasonably generous entry that sets the stage for what’s to come.
“There are no units that face directly south. They extend right to the west and right to the east – it means everyone has good access to the sun.”
Apartments are one, two or three bedrooms, and Brian hopes that mix will lead to a diversity of residents.
Twelve apartments are under contract with nine remaining, more than half a year out from completion.
That came after a slow beginning. “We were not concerned at the start, but things were slow,” Mitch says. “But ever since the construction started the inquiries just been outstanding. As soon as they had a visual and could see it, we started to get pen on paper.”
Real estate agent James Walsh says most of the interest is from Hamiltonians, with one buyer from Australia. The top floor is tending to draw people looking to downsize and the lower levels are drawing interest from a mix of young professionals and semi-retired people.
He says other mixed-use buildings tend to be conversions, while typical central city new building has involved townhouses, apart from the Thackeray St apartments.
“This should have happened a long time ago, this type of apartment building for Hamilton, because as the city’s sprawled out we’re going to need to bring people back into the city.
“I really feel like this is going to be a flagship for central city living in Hamilton.”
Brian White says he likes the mixed-use concept.
“To us it’s a really sensible way of doing things. Ground level’s not necessarily where you want to be placing stand-alone apartments. At the higher levels you’ve got access to better light, you’ve got much better views. And then the lower levels when you’re interacting with the street you’ve got hospitality, which enriches the street from our perspective.
“When you think about the planning of our cities a lot of it stems back to the industrial era when you didn’t want to have the blacksmith next door to where you live, whereas offices are a pretty benign activity and they actually make quite good neighbours. Typically no one’s there when you’re at home and vice versa, so that works quite well.”
Blair Currie pays tribute to Hamilton City Council for its enabling role in the process, given the five-storey mixed-use building didn’t fit neatly in the planning box.
“We are keen on urban design being high quality. Going up like this enabled a whole lot of urban benefits, and it required a pragmatic council to work with us, to see those benefits,” he says.
“Our experience with the council through this whole process was a very positive one. They could see the endgame of what we were trying to achieve and they wanted to see what they could do to help us achieve it because they could see it was going to be very good for the city.
“They’re good to deal with and there’s a lot of transparency there.”
That supportiveness, which Blair says makes Hamilton far better to deal with than a lot of other territorial authorities, saw pragmatic solutions offered and efficiently worked through the resource consent application.
Blair thinks there is a generational change happening, with a move away from the traditional house on its own section.
Pre-family, younger people are more likely to be keen on a “lock and leave” apartment without the section and gardening hassles, he says – as are some older people whose children have left home.
“In Hamilton you get traditional-style houses, but all on top of each other, and away from the amenities. From our point of view the CBD has got all these amenities around it already.
“Bringing people back in will help encourage a different way to live,” Blair says.