DCC Media Release – Chief Post Office

Dunedin City Council
Media Release

Chief Post Office’s Future Sorted

Last reviewed: 11 May 2010 9:10am

The former Chief Post Office building in Princes Street will be given a new lease on life – but not as a new site for the city’s central library.

The DCC has been conducting a feasibility analysis on the building’s suitability for adaptation to a library/office accommodation complex under an option from the building’s current owner South Canterbury Finance.

That option recently expired before the DCC analysis was completed and the Council has been unable to negotiate an extension after a firm offer to develop the building as a hotel was received by its owners.

The CPO building will now be developed as a 4 star hotel by Distinction Hotels whose owner, Mr Geoffrey Thomson, already owns hotels in Queenstown, Te Anau and Rotorua.

Mr Thomson, who hopes to have the Dunedin hotel open in time to meet demand for the Rugby World Cup, is excited by the opportunity to add to the city’s accommodation capacity.

“I think this is the most appropriate use of the building. Not only will it bring new construction jobs during the conversion to a hotel and then deliver dozens of permanent new jobs when complete, it will also grow the tourism market in Dunedin, Otago and Southland” said Mr Thomson.

Meanwhile, Mayor, Peter Chin, says the news is bittersweet. “We’re disappointed our plans for the Library have come to nothing. But the city will benefit from the development of a new hotel, which, like our Library plans, will revitalise an iconic heritage inner-city precinct.”

The Council had made no financial commitment to the development of the CPO. The costs of the analysis have been absorbed by the generosity of the consultants wishing to see the city landmark building put to good use.

Contact DCC on 477 4000.

DCC Link

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Construction, Design, Economics, Geography, People, Politics, Project management, Site, Stadiums, Urban design

19 responses to “DCC Media Release – Chief Post Office

  1. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Tue, 11 May 2010
    Exchange hotel plan rises again
    The fate of Dunedin’s former Chief Post office has taken another twist with fresh plans for a hotel development killing a proposal to convert the site into the city’s central library. NZPA
    Read more


    Mr Thomson was responsible for an earlier bid to convert the former Chief Post Office into a hotel and at the time he owned the building. He sold the building on to the McEwan Group. Mr Thomson also owns and operates Earnslaw Station.


    The former Chief Post Office Dunedin was officially opened in 1937.

    ### stuff.co.nz Last updated 08:50 19/10/2008
    Sunday Star Times: Business
    Investors voice reservations at progress on Dunedin Hilton
    The heritage-listed former Chief Post Office building in Princes St, Dunedin, was built in the 1920s, but has been closed since 1994. Previous plans to redevelop the site as a luxury hotel have not gone ahead.
    McEwan Group bought the property and site in June 2006 for $7 million and McEwan has secured a 10-year management contract with Hilton Australasia. It was due to open in 2010 as Hilton’s second New Zealand hotel and the first in the South Island.
    McEwan Group has also been selling hotel apartments and suites to investors at prices between $280,000 and $380,000.
    Read more


    ### nzherald.co.nz 4:00 AM Wednesday Mar 4, 2009
    Property guru McEwan bankrupted
    By Maria Slade
    Former high-flying developer and self-styled property investment guru Dan McEwan has been bankrupted. Dozens of small investors in McEwan projects are millions of dollars out of pocket, as one development after another goes to mortgagee sale. In the High Court at Auckland late last week, McEwan was adjudged bankrupt over a $978,000 debt. Troubled finance company Hanover Finance told the court it was also owed $4 million. But McEwan’s own lawyer had earlier told the Auckland District Court that his 70-year-old client, who claims his only source of income is a pension, owed in excess of $100 million.
    Read more

  2. Stu

    On the bright side, the article indicates that there are consultants out there willing to work for the Council for free. Hire those guys again :-)

    • Elizabeth

      We know who those good souls are. Some been tied up with the CPO since George sold it, I’m hoping they get to see a redevelopment happen this time. Others just plain love the Exchange area and are so right in helping it ‘refurbish’… some through their own private investment in the wider heritage resource. Thank god for the ‘some’.

  3. Phil

    I have a colleague working as a fire protection consultant. There’s a standing joke between us when he gets asked every 3 years to ressurect his design for a CPO hotel development. Likewise with the mechanical services consultant. It’s popped up so many times that most don’t waste much time on it now. But at least the design has already been completed and paid for.

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Wed, 12 May 2010
      Developer buys former post office
      By David Loughrey
      The former chief post office in Dunedin’s Exchange has been bought by an Invercargill businessman for yet another attempt at a hotel development. The purchase means the end of plans to use the building as a new home for the Dunedin Public Library and as Otago Regional Council headquarters.

      Asked if another plan for a hotel seemed viable, Mr [Peter] Chin said it was more viable than it had been because of developments like the Forsyth Barr Stadium, which would attract events to Dunedin.

      Read more

      That would be the Mayor of Dunedin acting hopeful, again.

      • Elizabeth

        ### ODT Online Mon, 17 May 2010
        Editorial: Hope and interest
        Such is the history of Dunedin’s former chief post office building that it would surprise few people if the latest plans for a hotel come to nothing. Geoffrey Thomson, the owner of the Distinction Hotel chain with hotels in Queenstown, Rotorua and Te Anau, has announced – through a Dunedin City Council media release – that he hoped to have the building ready as a hotel in time for next year’s Rugby World Cup. Good luck to him, first in launching the hotel and then, which must seem most unlikely, having it ready by late next year.
        Read more

    • Elizabeth

      Loss of potential home for public library. Link to earlier thread/comment about Dunedin public library services.

  4. Calvin Oaten

    The smart money would say that the hotel will come to nothing. Why? Well, it has been investigated at least three times before and each time come to nought. It simply does not stack up in Dunedin’s current format.

    Since Scenic Circle completed the development of the Cargills on the corner of Princes and Dowling St. it has become even less likely. Dunedin is not a town with a proven demand for large numbers of 4 and 5 star rooms, certainly not the number which would be added by the Post Office development.

    So what is going on? Only Mr Thomson and vendors South Canterbury Finance would know. The fact that the DCC had expressed interest in the building for a library site ( a seeming need still unsatisfied) could be in the mix. If the agreed purchase price was cheap enough, a feint and hold ploy for a year or two could pay dividends if the DCC came back and did a “Carisbrook”. If not, it could still pay off if the property market revived a little, and then there is always the ORC. A bit of a gamble all round.

  5. Phil

    The Cargill House redevelopment was a really smart one. Mainly because the developer looked at the market first. Dunedin, whether we like it or not, is primarily a “pass through” tourist destination especially for the lucrative package tour groups. They roll in at 4pm, and roll out again at 9am. I recall discussions with the developer at the time (who’s name escapes me, Lindsay something) who told me that the operator, Scenic Circle, had a 90% occupancy guarantee for the first 2 years, from those bus tour companies. The accommodation was built accordingly, with fewer features needed for short stay accommodation. A budget design, but one that met the market. Smart move at the time.

  6. Calvin Oaten

    Phil, right on. So can Dunedin stand another one? Especially as large as the Post Office.

  7. Calvin Oaten

    It can? What diligence on your part tells you that?

  8. janet

    With the DCC grand plan for the redeveloped town hall complex and the budgeted 36 conferences a year that Dunedin will attract here, don’t we need another hotel with 4-5 star rating?

  9. James

    Dunedin is definitely becoming more popular. Lonely Planet have recently upgraded it to their list of feature destinations (there is usually ~20 for a country), and continue to make further positive noises about the city. Whether that translates into another hotel’s worth of demand I’m not sure.

    • Elizabeth

      The burgeoning wedding venue market… at the stadium… might need some complementary 4-5 star hotel accommodation, Calvin.

      ### ODT Online Wed, 19 May 2010
      Wedding bells for stadium?
      By Chris Morris
      Forget rolling mauls and mosh pits: brides-to-be could soon be making their way up a grassy aisle inside Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium. The stadium – still a mass of cranes, half-finished steelwork and machinery – is expected to become the newest wedding venue in Dunedin, when completed in August next year.
      Read more

  10. Calvin Oaten

    Elizabeth: are you suggesting that you and I should get married? If we use the stadium we could invite Malcolm to officiate. Still doesn’t justify the Post Office hotel.

  11. you can always count on 5 star hotels when you want maximum comfort and a lot of souvenirs ;;:

  12. Stu

    Had forgotten about this one. No visible activity onsite. Very dubious that any development will be ready for RWC. So, what was the point?

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