Business, Community, Council

High rise apartment plan in jeopardy

The Porse building in central Blenheim. Photo: Matt Brown.

Plans to tackle Blenheim’s growing number of empty shops by building town centre apartments have met with mounting opposition.

Consents to turn the second and fourth levels of the Porse building, on Market St North, into eight residential apartments are being considered by council.

But stiff opposition from surrounding businesses means the plans may be scrapped before the project even gets started.

A bevy of Market St businesses expressed their opposition to the inner-city apartments at a hearing at council yesterday.

Concerns of ‘reverse sensitivity’, increased traffic and the removal of car parking and loading zones were put forward by former deputy mayor and owner of the Biddy Kate’s Irish Bar Terry Sloan.

Several other businesses have joined Terry’s official objection, causing the consenting process to grind to a halt while a hearing in front of the council’s resource hearings commissioner was held.

Bikefit, Lighting Plus, Caci Clinic and Community Law added their voice to Terry’s, citing fears of increased traffic and parking problems.

In his initial submission, Terry says he was worried the normal operating noise of the bar and cafe could prompt complaints.

A bar has been operating in the Criterion building for more than 100 years.

It currently has a license to operate until 3am seven days a week.

The apartments at the Porse building, ranging in floor area from 62 square metres to 110 square metres, have been in the pipeline for building owners TH Barnes & Co since late last year.

Consents show vacant shop frontage on the street could be converted to a car parking garage and storage for each of the units.

The car parking garage entrance would require the loading zone on the street to be moved or removed.

Originally built for the Inland Revenue Department in 1987, the government agency downsized and quit the region shortly after completion.

Since then, the building has been largely vacant.

In evidence submitted to council, TH Barnes & Co Ltd director Jason Barnes says they had to reconsider the best way to utilise the building.

“Development of large format retail centres outside of the Central Business District such as the Westwood development in Springlands and a Mitre 10 store in Redwoodtown, has resulted in empty shop space in the town centre,” Jason says.

“Shop space in our building has suffered particularly badly due to its location on the periphery of the Central Business District.”

He says apartment living has traditionally been more of the domain of the larger cities.

“However, with a range of pressures on accommodation, changes in lifestyles and changes in perceptions and attitudes, apartment living is becoming an accepted, convenient and affordable living option for some people in smaller town centres.”

Council documents show TH Barnes & Co engaged a lawyer to draft a ‘Noise and Nuisance’ agreement that could be signed by both parties ahead of the development.

The documents were not signed by Terry, it says.

Plans for the apartment include double glazed windows to minimise sound intrusion and an acoustic engineer’s report found the apartments comply with the noise rule for residential activity within the CBD.

“Our proposed development will help revitalise a town that has suffered from loss of government and corporate offices to larger centres and to loss of retail shops in the town centre,” Jason says.

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