Prista Apartments: Dunedin’s goldrush-era heritage won’t fall over, unless you make it

Today, I was handed a B/W photocopy poster…

To find out more about early Dunedin and why people want to save these buildings, join the Gathering!

The buildings are located in the South Princes Street Townscape Precinct, and their facades to Princes Street are protected in the Dunedin City District Plan.

Nearby we have Jetty Street, so named because it was the main point of entry, by jetty, to colonial Dunedin’s commercial heart. The original harbour edge (before reclamation occurred) was in very close proximity to Princes Street.

These are not the first buildings erected in the street, they are the more solid ‘replacements’ financed on the proceeds of the Central Otago goldrush. They date to the 1860s-70s. They are a rare and unique remnant of a significant time in Dunedin’s commercial history and establishment.

The buildings are intact and, according to one of New Zealand’s leading structural engineers, Lou Robinson of Dunedin (a recognised specialist in earthquake strengthening), the facades are “simple” to strengthen and retain. The cost of retaining the facades is not prohibitive.

The same follows for the buildings themselves given their brick construction.

The Dunedin City Council “is of a mind” to grant the application to redevelop the site for apartments, with ground floor retail and first floor carparking – conditional to the applicant providing a new facade design that better meets the townscape precinct values.

Why would anyone take out authentic heritage fabric and replace it with what we hear could be mimicry of Victorian/Edwardian building details.

The Christchurch-based developer has been asked to submit a new facade design by 1 July 2010.

“Counting down” is a poor turn of phrase in the circumstances.

The organisers of the Save Historic Buildings Gathering welcome your participation this Saturday.

Those interested in earthquake strengthening, sustainable built environment, sustainable building approaches, embodied energy and lowering our carbon footprint can swap notes at the Gathering.

Keeping the buildings and adaptively re-using them, given their handy location in the CBD, is not just about aesthetics, cultural history and bygone eras, it’s also about preserving our heritage as a generator of economic development and attending to the quality and identity of ‘our place’.

[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: Wrote this. Said this with a slight variation
13.9.10 Same again, Dunedin City District Plan about to be ignored
11.2.10 Note to DCC, via New Jersey
24.1.10 Prista Apartments: 372-392 Princes St and 11 Stafford St

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Construction, Design, Economics, Geography, Project management, Urban design

9 responses to “Prista Apartments: Dunedin’s goldrush-era heritage won’t fall over, unless you make it

  1. wirehunt

    But does ‘Lou Robinson of Dunedin’ know that he can’t be skilled enough for that job? @Dave Davidson….

    A shame I’m away for a few days as I would like to be here for this.

  2. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Thu, 6 May 2010
    City’s heritage buildings disappearing like ‘teeth falling out’
    By Chris Morris
    There was a passionate call for Dunedin city councillors to do more to protect the city’s heritage buildings during yesterday’s annual plan hearing.

    Leigh Morris, of Dunedin, told councillors he feared the city was gradually losing its heritage buildings, with the threat to a block of Princes St buildings just the latest example.

    New Zealand Historic Places Trust Otago/Southland branch area manager Owen Graham said the council should consider preparing an annual summary showing ratepayers what it was doing to preserve the city’s heritage.

    The NZHPT national organisation had $500,000 to contribute to heritage projects in the last funding round, and $100,000 of that had been spent in Otago.

    Read more

    • Elizabeth

      I’m guessing if DCC did prepare “an annual summary showing ratepayers what it was doing to preserve the city’s heritage”, Dunedin residents (many of whom, according to past Residents’ Opinion Surveys, have shown keen interest in Dunedin’s heritage) would be delighted by the figures.

      Oh yes, there will be the usual detractors. However, I believe this would be a good news story for Council – “Positive PR”. God knows, Council is seriously beginning to deserve the (heritage) kudos if you take the last 12 months and projections via the Annual Plan and LTCCP processes as indicative!

  3. David Murray

    Those interested in this might be interested in the facebook group, Dunedin Heritage Buildings – Stop Demolition by Neglect, at

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks David! For some reason your link broke up. I’ve replaced it in your message, working now.

      • Elizabeth

        ### ODT Online Mon, 10 May 2010
        Fear demolitions ‘tip of the iceberg’
        By John Gibb
        Dunedin historian Peter Entwisle is surprised and “shocked” the facades of several historic city buildings could be demolished, despite their protection as part of the city’s South Princes St townscape precinct. Mr Entwisle was one of several speakers who addressed a protest meeting over the issue at noon on Saturday.

        The “save historic buildings gathering”, initiated mainly by Trish Saunders, of Dunedin, attracted about 50 people and was held on the footpath beside some of the buildings, near Stafford St.

        Read more

  4. Pingback: Things I like here « Art and My Life

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