Fosters redevelopment gives McCaw Lewis a new home

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Rhys Harvey says the redevelopment is giving the somewhat jaded building new presence and identity.

Rhys Harvey says the redevelopment is giving the somewhat jaded building new presence and identity.

A redevelopment of Victoria Street building Sentinel House is set to give the building a real presence and “add life” to northern Victoria Street.

Foster Develop’s refurbished “586 Victoria Street” will also provide Hamilton law firm McCaw Lewis a new home in the top two floors to coincide with next year’s 100 year anniversary.

The comprehensive multi-million redevelopment of the six-storey 1980s building features the creation of a “destination” ground floor including a new café and state of the art shared meeting spaces and end of trip facilities including changing rooms and showers.

The objective is to open up the ground floor to the public and invite people in.

“We will create a destination at the north end of Victoria Street on the ground floor,” says Fosters director of development Rhys Harvey.

Mr Harvey anticipates the new café will be popular while businesses will make plenty of use of the communal conference rooms that will be available for hire.

“We’re hoping that the café and the meeting rooms will become a destination or a reason to come further north on Victoria Street.”

Foster Develop purchased the building in July and Mr Harvey worked with architects Chow Hill who he said had done “an outstanding job” during the design process to bring the building to life.

The extensive redevelopment also delivers a new interior and exterior, new lifts and new bathrooms, together with earthquake strengthening.

Mr Harvey says the redevelopment is in essence giving the somewhat jaded building new “presence and identity”.

“We really want to reposition it to liven up the north end of Victoria Street,” he said.

With existing tenants on levels three and four, new tenants on the bottom two floors and McCaw Lewis in the top two floors, the building will become a busy one.

Mr Harvey estimates around 40 people are working in the building at present. Once opened and fully tenanted there should be close to 250 people occupying it. That’s got to be good for the surrounding area.

While the new look 586 Victoria Street will look completely different and stamp its identity on Victoria Street, Mr Harvey says the colours used will be sympathetic to the nearby heritage building, the Public Trust building.

McCaw Lewis’s new offices will be completely open plan with an “industrial look” and exposed ceilings while clients will have access to superb views.

“I’m excited for them – it will be a pretty cool ‘wow’ moment for their clients.”

McCaw Lewis managing director Aidan Warren says the team is looking forward to an “opportunity to do something a bit different”.

McCaw Lewis had been on its London Street site since 2002 and it was time for a move.

“The sixth floor will give all of our clients’ rooms and reception area a real panoramic view over the east, the client experience is going to be a lot better,” he said.

“That is part of our philosophy – we treat our clients as whanau. That was a key part of the decision to move to this new location.”

Mr Warren said moving to a purpose-built office is often an attractive option in such situations but the firm preferred the idea of investing in the CBD.

He said staff had already adapted to a relatively open plan office design when they moved to the London Street site 16 years ago, but 586 Victoria Street would open up the office even more.

“Even though our current office is open plan, the reception area tends to divide the office into two parts and there are still some offices scattered around for some senior people. This will take the open plan side of things to a new level.”

He said the open plan nature of the office worked well with the ‘kotahitanga’ one team philosophy and collaborative environment that the law firm seeks to embrace.

Mr Warren praised the design of the building and the innovation behind it, particularly with the downstairs facilities such as meetings rooms.

He said staff were genuinely excited and were involved in the process of preparing for the move.

McCaw Lewis will mark 100 years next year and the move was tied in with this milestone, he said.

“We’ve spent time recently planning and developing a clear vision of ourselves and that is very much about embracing things Māori as a big part of our brand values. It’s about being clear about our values and brand proposition. The physical move will be a culmination of this, a sort of statement of intent I guess.

“At a new home you always say you are going to do things differently and change things.

“It’s the same thing with us in terms of our modernity as a law firm. A chance for us to be really innovative in a profession which is really conservative.

“We’ve outgrown our office on London Street and we’re really excited about the move.”

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Geoff Taylor

Waikato Business News editor Geoff Taylor. Email: geoff@wbn.co.nz