Attracting new businesses to Waikato is in the sights of developers aiming to transform a prominent central Hamilton block.
The area bordered by Anglesea, Hood and Alexandra Streets is set for a major makeover as Ebbett Holden moves out and the 10,000 square metre site becomes a destination mixed use development including six landmark buildings of varying height, appearance and use, enveloping a central plaza.
Office space will predominate in the staged project led by Foster Develop and designed by Chow:Hill Architects. A resource consent application has been lodged.
Likely tenants include Auckland corporates looking to move their back-office staff, government agencies and Hamilton professionals and services organisations looking to grow.
“Hamilton city needs another 3000 or 4000 people working in it. That’s what’s going to help the city revive,” Foster Develop development director Rhys Harvey said.
The development, called Union Square with an echo of the nearby historic former Union Bridge, is likely to be built over four to six years, starting mid 2020. There are three local investors leading the development, the Ebbett Group, Fosters Develop and Imola Ltd, with a key strategy of partnering with local trades and professional consultants through the lifecycle of Union Square.
It will feature A grade space for up to 2500 office workers, a wellness centre, room for professional suites, potentially 14 two and three-bedroom apartments, bookable business meeting spaces, retail/food and beverage, and a multi-level carpark.
“The impetus is that Ebbett are moving from the site and we’ve agreed that the best thing for Hamilton is to get a tranche of good office space, supported by lifestyle retail and restaurants,” said Harvey.
“If you look at any other city in the world, to attract these and retain all these people and get productivity, they need to be in a good space.”
There will be about 22,000 square metres of office space and 18 ground-floor retail outlets, with 15-metre-wide boulevards leading to the central plaza in a design aimed at being welcoming to both tenants and passers-by.
The Alexandra Street frontage will have a carpark building, a three-storey office building pitched at professional and medical suites, topped by double-storey apartments, and a multi-level office block with a wellness centre at ground level.
Anglesea Street frontage will include the biggest, six-level building with 1400 square metre floor plates, bordering the existing DHB building. Also facing Anglesea Street will be a five-level building with communal meeting spaces and boardrooms to rent by the hour on the bottom floor and a four level building on the corner of Anglesea and Hood Streets, which will be the first to be built and which Harvey says has had the most interest so far.
“Aesthetically we’ve been really focused on making each building look different, keeping away from the glass box effect and creating something which can really illustrate the Waikato of the future.
“When you’re building something of this scale it needs to be differentiated, and for us this is all about experience – experience for the occupiers, experience for the public.”
Harvey has been in talks with potential tenants from Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton.
“The target tenants I see as three-fold. There is a lot of pent-up demand by Hamilton professional services occupiers for good quality office space which can help them attract and retain great talent to and within Hamilton.”
A second target is Auckland corporates putting their back-of-house workforce in Hamilton, with Harvey citing the future train link, the Golden Triangle and population moving south as factors.
“It feels like the time is right, there’s a lot of momentum. We can obviously build a great space for people at a lot less cost than you pay in Auckland’s Queen Street.
“The third target market is central government by attracting further government agencies in good space here at the centre of the Golden Triangle.”
Harvey said marketing to potential tenants has informed the design, with a lot of interest in amenity for staff, including the wellness centre and being able to buy a sandwich at a reasonable cost. There has also been enthusiasm for using the business hub’s shared space to reduce costs when fitting out their offices.
He said wellness includes access to community spaces that get light and air. “One of the key motivators around having the buildings all at different levels is aesthetic so it doesn’t just look like a business park but it’s also to maximise light to the plaza areas.
“The vision is it’s a place where people meet after work as well.”
For Ebbett Group managing director Ben van den Engel, the shift represents a move from the site he has worked at ever since starting as an apprentice in 1971.
“It was more than 30 years ago that, at a directors’ meeting, we were talking about the fact that we probably shouldn’t be in the centre of the city any more and it just shows you that things take a long time,” he said.
“I think it’s quite exciting for Hamilton. We’re really wanting to do something that’s of a good quality, and marrying that whole thing into the development of Victoria Street, on the river there, and getting connection through, and the big picture long term will be that the city scene could really develop into something pretty worthwhile.”
Harvey said it is one of the only Hamilton sites that could allow this type of development, being in the south end of the CBD and with good arterial routes through Anglesea Street for customer-focused
“What’s a little bit different about this is it is three local entities who are doing something local,” he said. “So it means a lot to us. It means a lot to Fosters as an organisation who is a major part of the community, and the same with Ebbetts.”
Building is likely to start mid-next year, with Ebbett Holden shifting to Te Rapa a few months after that.
Dealerships shift out of central city
Union Square marks the end of a great Hamilton migration as the last of the motor vehicle dealerships leaves the central city.
Where once the dealers were landmarks around the CBD, they now occupy gleaming new sites in Te Rapa.
Their former sites are mostly converted into office and apartment space, while the closest Ebbett will be to the CBD is its Audi dealership in Hamilton East on the corner of Grey and Clyde Streets.
Hood Street was for many decades a thriving automotive precinct, and Alf Ebbett was a pioneer, arriving there more than 90 years ago, in 1928, to found the business that still carries his name. The company became Ebbett Motors and Waikato Motors, saw one of its sites taken over by the air force during World War II, went public in the mid 1970s, returned to private ownership in 1983, narrowly survived the 1987 stockmarket crash and flourished to become the city’s biggest dealership name.
Ben van den Engel has seen much of that happen after starting as an apprentice in 1971 on the same site where he is now Ebbett Group managing director. Van den Engel remembers when the current DHB building was a Firestone retreading company, and can recall having car speedo repairers, automotive upholsterers and workshops as neighbours.
Over the years, Ebbett bought up the various sections in the precinct that will become Union Square.
Next year, Ebbett Holden will move out to a new Chow:Hill-designed 25,000 square metre site at Te Rapa, along with Volkswagen, Paint and Panel and Tyre Shop, completing a shift which the Ebbett company started 15 years ago with Jim Wright Nissan and which continued with Duncan and Ebbett and the Toyota dealership. Their Skoda dealership, across Anglesea Street, will move at the same time into the current Volkswagen showroom dealership.