Prista Apartments: 372-392 Princes St and 11 Stafford St

UPDATE: It’s now August 2010 and we’ve had the last hearing under the resource consent process. There’s been two years of processing. See comments on this thread for more.

****

[24 January 2010] This week, we’re within cooee of a resource consent decision on the Prista Apartments development proposal – waiting with baited breath.

This one’s about demolishing District Plan protected facades, which all along the developer has demonstrated no wish to retain – or to explore as a design solution (it’s never been on the table).

One of our leading structural engineers tells us the facades – and the buildings themselves – are straightforward to retain and strengthen, at not so very much cost comparatively.

Does the city value its area potential?

The application has been processing for a year or more. Will the pending decision bring joy, sadness, utter hopelessness – or sheer grunt work for anyone prepared to test it?

Given the nature of the Dunedin City District Plan considerations and the heritage issues at stake, ALL EYES ARE PAINFULLY GLUED.

[updated 18.6.13]

Related Posts and Comments:
4.3.11 Reaction to another instance of unthinking ad-hocism from City Hall
15.9.10 Prista Apartments: Resource consent Decision + Appeal
13.9.10 Same again, Dunedin City District Plan about to be ignored
4.5.10 Dunedin’s goldrush-era heritage won’t fall over, unless you make it
11.2.10 Note to DCC, via New Jersey

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

18 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Economics, Politics, Town planning, Urban design

18 responses to “Prista Apartments: 372-392 Princes St and 11 Stafford St

    • Elizabeth

      tossed up which one to use and opted for the post-structural potential of baited, ie someone will feel crunch of (legal) teeth if the decision goes the wrong way – and one is not feeling particlarly a-bated about that

  1. Stu

    thought it might have been post-modern usage :-)

  2. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Fri, 20 Aug 2010
    Historic Places Trust challenges planner
    By David Loughrey
    It may have been the passions involved, or the length of the process, but there were some testy moments at a resource consent hearing yesterday considering the future of a group of Princes St, Dunedin, buildings. The Dunedin City Council hearing sat to consider an issue that has been the subject of debate since 2008, and identities on all sides were possibly having their last crack at the issue under the consent process.
    Read more

    ****

    Note:
    Editorial staff of the Otago Daily Times – not the journalist – in supplying the heading of the news item may have misconstrued that Elizabeth Kerr was speaking on behalf of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Of this I am unclear. However the opening wording of my written submission to the hearing was:

    “This is the submission to hearing of Elizabeth Kerr, resident of Dunedin.

    [1] These comments are in response to the Council report (28 June 2010) which includes further information provided by the Applicant’s architectural designer Gary Todd Architecture.

    [2] I note this report is supplementary “to those circulated on 9 December 2008 and 28 July 2009, and should be read in conjunction with those reports, evidence presented at the hearings of 18-19 December 2008, 11 August 2009, and 14 December 2009, and the interim decision issued on 2 February 2010”. (Council Report, [2])

    [3] I appreciate this is the third set of concept drawings received from the Applicant via Council for comment by submitters. My position has not changed. I seek that Council declines the application in its entirety.

    [4] Rather than critique the drawings which are really of no consequence to my position on the application, I would like to address Ms Darby’s report.”

    • Elizabeth

      The ODT Chief Reporter tells me that something will go into tomorrow’s newspaper addressing the NZHPT’s concerns with the item heading. And that Elizabeth Kerr wasn’t construed by ODT staff as speaking for NZHPT.

      • Elizabeth

        ### ODT Online Fri, 20/08/2010 – 9:39am.
        Comment by dmurray on Inaccuracy
        I am sorry to see an inaccuracy in a previous ODT report repeated here: that the proposed design ‘closely replicates the existing facades’. It closely replicates only one of the four Princes Street facades, and the remaining three could not even be described as loosely replicated.
        Read more

  3. Elizabeth

    Hmmm, I see ODT have made a little editorial change to the heading of this item at the NZHPT’s request.

    ### ODT Online Fri, 20 Aug 2010
    Heritage advocate challenges planner
    By David Loughrey
    It may have been the passions involved, or the length of the process, but there were some testy moments at a resource consent hearing yesterday considering the future of a group of Princes St, Dunedin, buildings.
    Read more

    But please see my note at this comment:
    https://dunedinstadium.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/proposed-prista-apartments-372-392-princes-st-and-11-stafford-st/#comment-12698

    • Elizabeth

      And in the ODT print and digital editions today it says (Corrections, page 3):

      “The headline of an article yesterday about a resource consent hearing for a group of Princes St, Dunedin, buildings incorrectly stated the New Zealand Historic Places Trust was behind the challenge of a council planner at the meeting. As detailed in the article, heritage advocate Elizabeth Kerr was behind the challenge, not the trust.”

      • Elizabeth

        Here is my written submission to hearing, for better or worse, folks:

        Resource Consent Application LUC-2008-580
        372-392 Princes Street, 11 Stafford Street
        Dunedin


        Reconvened Hearing
        19 August 2010

        This is the submission to hearing of Elizabeth Kerr, resident of Dunedin.

        [1] These comments are in response to the Council report (28 June 2010) which includes further information provided by the Applicant’s architectural designer Gary Todd Architecture.

        [2] I note this report is supplementary “to those circulated on 9 December 2008 and 28 July 2009, and should be read in conjunction with those reports, evidence presented at the hearings of 18-19 December 2008, 11 August 2009, and 14 December 2009, and the interim decision issued on 2 February 2010”. (Council Report, [2])

        [3] I appreciate this is the third set of concept drawings received from the Applicant via Council for comment by submitters. My position has not changed. I seek that Council declines the application in its entirety.

        [4] Rather than critique the drawings which are really of no consequence to my position on the application, I would like to address Ms Darby’s report.

        [5] Across this lengthy hearing process Ms Darby, Council planner, has not been consistent in her recommendations to the Hearings Committee.

        [6] I accept Ms Darby is able to change her mind, take a position or sit on a fence. All the while I have been hoping that she would learn something useful about historic heritage and building conservation in order to uphold the protections in the District Plan which apply to the facades of 372-392 Princes St. Of course, from there it was my further hope – given Dunedin is a heritage city – that she would see the clever ways to negotiate saving the heritage buildings themselves, not just their facades, from wanton demolition by the Applicant.

        [7] The burden placed on one Council planner is too great. This has not panned out as I had hoped because there is the complicating factor of the process being undertaken by the Hearings Committee through the many months which appears to strongly favour the Applicant; not historic heritage, not best practice in heritage management, not best practice in urban design, not best practice in sustainable building, and not upholding Dunedin City District Plan protections.

        [8] To my mind another forum is needed to sort the bread from the jam. But that is for another day.

        [9] Here and now, Ms Darby, in amongst options to put to the Applicant and the Hearings Committee, is looking at the possibility of preserving just one building façade (386 Princes St) within the proposed building complex. This is the building with a District Plan protected façade, over which there is an existing consent for demolition.

        [10] To a lay person this is all really very confusing.

        [11] It appears then that the advice of Mr John Gray because he is the Council’s consulting architect has been heeded to some extent by Ms Darby. However, advocating in the way she has with a loose interpretation of townscape wherein the value of historic heritage is denied (Council Report [29]), her favoured option of retaining the one building façade carries with it the complete removal of the archaeological, historic heritage and architectural context from around that protected façade. Treating historic heritage as the sore thumb, Ms Darby advocates that the Applicant has the option to superficially replicate by contemporary means the architectural heritage that has just been removed.

        [12] The brilliance of this option set out in (defendable?) planning terms appears absolute although the contradictions posed by this stance are illuminatory.

        [13] Here we have pre-1900 buildings that are archaeological sites, being amongst the earliest commercial buildings standing in Dunedin, that have never been competently assessed for their archaeological and heritage values – I don’t accept the evidence presented by Dr Angela Middleton (which may have been defended by her partner Dr Ian Smith, archaeologist) – but which have protected facades being stood up for demolition. And their replication.

        [14] I will pause here to make an observation. The understanding I gain from Mr John Gray’s letter (dated 11 June 2010) is that Mr Gray has no professional accreditation in the field of architectural or historic heritage conservation; this accreditation is only available through overseas institutions, such as York University. Very few practising architects in New Zealand have professional accreditation in architectural or historic heritage conservation. I note the New Zealand Registered Architects Board (NZRAB) does not recognise the terms ‘conservation architect’ or ‘heritage architect’ and consequently provides no continuing professional development (CPD) process for individuals claiming to be that.

        [15] The Council planner having recognised a non complying activity – “the construction of the replacement building for Princes Street” (Council Report [42]) – should be more concerned about recognising and retaining historic heritage given what the District Plan details by way of objectives, policies and protections; and being herself now soundly in the knowledge of evidence given by Mr Lou Robinson, Consulting Engineer, and officers of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust; together with the documentary research provided by submitter Mr Peter Entwisle.

        [16] Ms Darby has not called on Council’s Policy Planner – Heritage for a report on the latest set of concept drawings from the Applicant. Nor has she called on Council’s Principal Urban Designer to provide a report. This lack occurring previously in the hearings was noted in my submission(s). If we have the expertise in Council to enable a report from Transport Operations (dated 24 June 2010), why then is the Council through Ms Darby not consulting relevant in-house expertise? What is happening here?

        [17] It is my firm opinion that there has been to date:
        • no competent archaeological assessment of the subject buildings,
        • no competent heritage impact assessment for the subject buildings, and
        • no urban design assessment of the effects of the proposal on the subject buildings and the townscape precinct.

        [18] I believe the Hearings Committee has been remiss in not requesting this information from suitably qualified nationally recognised professionals.

        [19] The evidence presented on behalf of the Applicant from his consultants has been considerably lacking in weight. And yet here we are about to give the Applicant another deadly shot at demolition of historic heritage, Dunedin’s gold-rush era buildings that are fully intact. Remember too, 11 Stafford St is the oldest building in the group. We have been told previously the facades to Princes St are able to be strengthened and retained at reasonable cost. I would be very surprised if the same did not apply to retention of the subject buildings as a whole.

        [20] At paragraph [7] of the Council Report, Ms Darby notes “the latest proposal does not promote an alternative design for the building at 11 Stafford St, and the proposal for this building is the first design as discussed originally”. At [16] the proposed building in replacement is described as non-compliant.

        [21] The Applicant provides no information about the use of the proposed building at 11 Stafford St, and Ms Darby fails to ascertain whether the existing building can be adapted for use, and if not, could the bluestone base be retained or the stones re-used within the proposed building’s fabric as a feature. I have no doubt the archaeological authority required for any site work will determine what happens to the bluestone. However, this is just one more instance of Ms Darby being rather less concerned with historic heritage.

        [22] At [17] we learn that, “Overall, the proposal is considered to be a non-complying activity.” This is mainly due to the under-width right of way off Stafford St as access to the proposed buildings to Princes St and to Stafford St, should internal carparking be pursued (see discussion at Council Report [42] and [43]).

        [23] At [29] Ms Darby says, “I will make the observation that a townscape precinct seeks to maintain and enhance the appearance of an area rather than maintain its historic fabric.”

        [24] There follows mumbo-jumbo and muddying that ignores the District Plan scheduling of the Princes St facades as well as the archaeological site status of the existing buildings. In my view, Ms Darby completely loses the plot right here; I will not be led on by her meandering theorisation for the obliteration of heritage values. I fear that with a swipe of her pen she might convince the Hearings Committee to her rarefied view.

        [25] At [37] Part II matters Ms Darby should be asked to clarify whether in her opinion the subject buildings are ‘historic heritage’, and on what grounds she would base her reply.

        [26] If Ms Darby fails to find the correct answer then her statement at [39] that “the style of the proposed building will have adverse effects which are no more than minor” is not supported.

        [27] By [40] Ms Darby with her planner’s hat on has neglected to consider the application of urban design strategy that would identify why a precinct in the District Plan requires special consideration in terms of key alignments, dimensions or relationships established with existing buildings, streets and open spaces. [See the Ministry for the Environment’s Urban Design Toolkit, a web-based compendium of tools that can be used to facilitate high-quality urban design and supports the implementation of the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol.]

        [28] At [45] Ms Darby goes for brass in favour of the Applicant, because in her opinion “the effects of constructing a new building with transportation breaches will be no more than minor”. And further, now she carves bells from that same metal, “the new design for the replacement building proposal is consistent with the relevant objectives and policies of the District Plan”. I would ask how on earth she got to that profound position so quickly, so blindly. Questions of professional competence arise.

        [29] It is my overall impression of the processing for this application, given the rather incredible wording of the interim decision, that all of us in the process are standing too far away from what it is the District Plan protects.

        [30] It is unbelievable that we are here to offer comment on yet a third set of conceptual building plans from the Applicant, in other words the third set to deny the protections set in place by the District Plan.

        [31] I simply and honestly believe that the existing buildings, and of course their facades, should remain in situ.

        [32] The buildings can be conserved and or adapted for use in a number of quietly elegant ways that allow the essence of this place and its three-dimensional representation of Dunedin’s early harbourside gold-rush past to shine and be told. Authentically.

        [33] The Applicant for nearly two years now has shown no resolve to explore options for building retention and adaptive reuse. It is clear that the Applicant’s architects and designers have not been of a mind to apply their professional abilities in sustainable building design (given the many precedents for sustainable building and environmental design in this country, given all the guidance available from the New Zealand Green Building Council, given their Dunedin peers with proven ability in sustainable building practice, and more) to persuade their client of the importance of the existing buildings, their embodied energy, and the possible cost savings and efficiencies they afford. Responsible stewardship of Dunedin’s historic heritage is far from their minds. Their concepts in replacement are not far apart in denying the tenets of the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol which aim to protect and utilise significant regional historic heritage as the non trivial glue for developing and enriching community identity and a collective “sense of place”.

        [34] I thank the Hearings Committee for this opportunity to be heard.

        • Elizabeth

          The point is should anyone lie down and take it, least of all the applicant who has had to wait 2+ years for this all to process to whatever result, least of all the general public, least of all submitters.

  4. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Wed, 9 Mar 2011
    Delay over process
    By David Loughrey
    A drawn-out dispute over the future of a group of Princes St, Dunedin, buildings may take longer to resolve as a result of the Christchurch earthquake. The earthquake has meant an Environment Court process for Prista Apartments’ bid to demolish buildings at 372-392 Princes St and 11 Stafford St, and replace them with a development of 15 apartments and retail space, has been deferred.
    Read more

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Thu, 15 Sep 2011
      Princes St buildings remain in limbo
      By David Loughrey
      A drawn-out dispute over the future of a group of historic Princes St, Dunedin buildings looks set to be prolonged until next year. An Environment Court hearing for Prista Apartments’ bid to demolish buildings at 372-392 Princes St and 11 Stafford St, and replace them with a development of 15 apartments and retail space, has been delayed because of the lack of availability of professional engineers and other witnesses, because of the Christchurch earthquake.
      Read more

      • Elizabeth

        ### ODT Online Sat, 18 Feb 2012
        Historic building demolition clash
        By David Loughrey
        A drawn-out dispute over the future of a group of historic Princes St, Dunedin buildings looks set to draw out further. In September 2010, the Dunedin City Council granted resource consent to Prista Apartments for its project to demolish buildings at 372-392 Princes St and 11 Stafford St, and replace them with apartments and retail space. […] This week, council resource consents manager Alan Worthington said mediation was continuing between Prista and the [New Zealand] Historic Places Trust, in an attempt to avoid court.
        Read more

        • Elizabeth

          DCC’s Alan Worthington is quite incorrect when he says ‘mediation was continuing’. That implies NZHPT and DCC are in the process of Environment Court mediation. That is not the case. It is my understanding that NZHPT and DCC are caucusing following their exchange of engineering reports in late January and have yet to report back to the Environment Court. Due to Court workloads it is unlikely that a court hearing could be scheduled before October 2012.

          Disclaimer. Elizabeth Kerr is a party to the appeal (RMA s274).

        • Elizabeth

          ### ODT Online Tue, 15 Jan 2013
          Demolition hearing likely this year
          By Debbie Porteous
          A dispute over the planned demolition of a group of heritage buildings in Dunedin’s Princes St is entering its fifth year, with indications it should go before the Environment Court this year. The plan to demolish and rebuild the buildings at 372-392 Princes St and 11 Stafford St and replace them with apartments and retail space has been under debate since 2008. In September 2010, the Dunedin City Council granted resource consent to Prista Apartments for its project. The decision, which required the company to replace the buildings with those of a similar design, followed two years of hearings, petitions, public meetings and heated opposition. The New Zealand Historic Places Trust appealed the decision, and the row of buildings has lain dormant since. A 2011 hearing was delayed because of the lack of availability of professional engineers and other witnesses, as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes, and mediation between Prista and the Historic Places Trust last year failed to find a resolution satisfactory to all parties. Council resource consents manager Alan Worthington said a timetable for exchanging evidence was in place and a court hearing was anticipated mid-year.
          Read more
          http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/242536/demolition-hearing-likely-year

          Note: There are ground floor tenancies in place for some buildings to Princes St. My copy of the most recent communication from the presiding Judge at Environment Court contains interesting information; I will reference it later today for posting here. Peter Entwisle and I are s.274 parties to the Appeal.

  5. David M

    Why have the upstairs windows of 386 Princes Street been open for months?

    • Elizabeth

      386 Princes St suffered water penetration for some period; this upper level was the subject of a council work order to make weathertight (roof). It is possible the ventilation was promoted to dry the fabric out – which can take months in a masonry building. Or it may be a way to neglect the building further. You’ll notice the top windows of the old AH Reed building are also opened to provide air flow/water ingress. I will email for information about 386.

      (8.45pm) Having had a reply to my query, it would seem the Dunedin City Council hasn’t enforced the roof work, possibly, maybe… And therefore Council requiring the owner to shut the windows is an untoward leap too far.

      There are other ways to stir this pot. Failing these I could hire the Snorkel.

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