Hotel We LIKE: Distinction Dunedin Hotel at former CPO

Reopening the former Chief Post Office building “marks a significant milestone for the restoration project, with more tenants, a three-level car park building and, eventually, the 120-apartment four-star-plus Distinction Dunedin Hotel, all to follow”. (ODT)

CPO Dunedin Chief Post Office 1930s [] re-imagedDunedin Chief Post Office (1930s)

### ODT Online Tue, 25 Mar 2014
Office workers light up CPO
By Chris Morris
The return today of a commercial tenant to Dunedin’s former chief post office building for the first time in more than 15 years marks a significant milestone in the restoration project. About 145 staff from Silver Fern Farms are expected to start work in their new headquarters – occupying the first two floors of the partially-restored building – this morning. It was the first time the building had been home to a permanent tenant since closing its doors in 1997, building owner Geoff Thomson, of Distinction Hotels, said.
Read more

Dogged controversy.
Submissions in opposition to the proposed waterfront tower hotel at 41 Wharf Street (LUC 2012-212) make frequent mention of a preference to see the old Chief Post Office restored and in use as a city hotel in The Exchange.
Dull criticism from the anti-heritage brigade has often been cast at the old building’s owner for lack of speed in making the redevelopment happen.
Geoff Thomson, a canny and diligent man, has proceeded with the retrofit of this very large government architect-designed building at the pace he can afford in the up-down market he faces. Geoff Thomson deserves significant praise for his passion and perseverance in seeing the project through as well as attending to quality tenanting and leases.

[history and significance]
█ Heritage New Zealand (HNZ) registration report: List No. 2145 (Category II)

CPO reroof (May 2011). Gerard O'Brien []Photo: Gerard O’Brien – Reroof, May 2011

Related Posts and Comments:
22.6.13 Dunedin’s former Chief Post Office
5.3.11 Former Chief Post Office, Dunedin – magazine feature…
14.8.2010 No surprises with former CPO redevelopment
12.5.10 DScene – Geoff Thomson buys back former CPO
11.5.10 DCC Media Release – Chief Post Office
16.3.10 Planning the future of Dunedin heritage buildings [recent comments]
10.11.09 Dunedin public library services
24.10.09 Rodney Wilson: Dunedin as national heritage city
20.7.09 DCC + former CPO + others(??) = a public library (yeah right)

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

*Images: – Dunedin Chief Post Office (1930s) re-imaged by whatifdunedin; – Gerard O’Brien: CPO Reroof, May 2011 [screenshot]


Filed under Architecture, Business, Construction, Design, Economics, Heritage, Hotel, Inspiration, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Pics, Project management, Property, Site, Tourism, Town planning, Urban design, What stadium

41 responses to “Hotel We LIKE: Distinction Dunedin Hotel at former CPO

  1. Mike

    I must admit I’m slightly disappointed – I’d hoped that the large 2-storey ground floor open space would have been turned into a grand hotel atrium, instead it looks like they’ve put in a new second floor and made it all offices.

    • Hype O'Thermia

      Yes, a nice idea but wouldn’t it have been a heck of a lot of empty, non-earning space? A nice-to-have, if the owner were a debt-free multi-squillionaire.

      • Mike

        Yes but “empty, non-earning space” is basically the definition of the inside of large impressive hotels (unlike say boring rectangular boxes) the Burj Al Arab’s inside is a great example of “grand” – but then so is the space used in “High Anxiety” :-)

        (in reality the hotels I’ve stayed in that are like that tend to use the ground floor of that space for things like restaurants/etc)

        • Mike – have you been inside or is your reaction from the photos provided only?
          Site visit, everyone!

          Let’s stick to the building we know, in my case, intimately since it was last in use. We’ve all seen or movied international hotels. This is Dunedin. This is area rejuvenation and more. A large hulk is now alive. There is plenty more about the building that pleases.

        • Mike

          Just a driveby I must admit – I see an upstairs through the curved windows at the front which made me assume they had created a second floor where (I vaguely remember) there was just a small mezzanine.

  2. Hype O'Thermia

    I don’t think this was being developed by a monster corporation who could afford to defer returns in the hope that restaurants etc – which open and close regularly all over town – would come along to take up the space, pay for fitting-out, and give a reliable return for the amount of “grandeur” space. I too remember it in its glorious Chief Post Office days and wish it could be like that, but when even people prepared to put in the risk and toil and their own money are so scarce let’s put these quibbles aside. When the people who have that kind of money demand the right to create ugliness OR ELSE!!! we’re so damn lucky to have Geoff Thomson and others who are driven by passion for making things that work in Dunedin, Dunedin-style, out of our old neglected treasures.

  3. Peter

    One interesting name associated with this new development is former ORC chairman, Stephen Cairns, working on behalf of Arrow International. Never been fussed about the man given his stadium history, but at least his involvement with this positive project softens my negative view of him. A little.

  4. ### March 26, 2014 – 6:47pm
    Old Chief Post Office back in business
    Dunedin’s old Chief Post Office is finally back in business, with the former heart of the Exchange beating strongly as office workers move in.


    ### March 26, 2014 – 5:46pm
    More staff flowing into the Exchange area
    Dunedin businesses in the Exchange area are preparing to take on more staff following the reopening of the former chief post office. Around 145 staff will work in the building from this week, occupying the bottom two floors. With an influx of people to the area, we went and talked to some local business owners to see what they think of the change.

  5. CPO lifting business in The Exchange. Thanks to Geoff Thomson and Silver Fern Farms. This is getting to be the best end of town: slow lift, more people, vitality. Other building owners see the light. ‘Naysayers’ proven right again!

    ### ODT Online Sat, 29 Mar 2014
    Exchange enlivened by new business
    By John Lewis
    The opening of Silver Fern Farms’ headquarters in Dunedin’s former chief post office building is boosting custom by up to 25% in the area, some business owners say. The company moved into the building in the Exchange last weekend and opened for business on Tuesday, making it the first commercial tenant there for more than 15 years. The New Zealand meat processor, marketer and exporter has brought an extra 145 staff to the Exchange area, and an increased sense of business confidence for other businesses in the area.
    Read more

  6. ### ODT Online Mon, 21 Apr 2014
    Three-level car park planned behind redeveloped CPO
    By Debbie Porteous
    Earthworks for a three-level car park to be built behind the former chief post office in Dunedin are expected to start within a month. Consent has also been granted for the construction of a free-standing canopy between the car park and the former chief post office on the Bond St side of the building, under which buses can pull up.
    Read more + Image

    BTW Tragic aesthetic handling of a CBD parking amenity.

    • Comment to ODT Online:

      Design and innovation
      Submitted by ej kerr on Mon, 21/04/2014 – 7:09pm.

      A dead lump? Lack of applied design research, architectural and contextual? A builder special? Good examples of contemporary parking buildings abound, you would expect a great ventilated skin(s), and or vertical landscaping, a green roof – anything innovative and intelligent for bulk and location, but this. This is a significant site for the warehouse/Exchange area; a parking building on a privately owned site can provide many more levels of character and amenity. Various renders for the proposed building have been blighted for years due to lack of architectural/urban design talent and finessing brought to working budgets.

      [ODT abridged sentence in italics]

  7. Hype O'Thermia

    CAR park? CARS? Why not a 3-level bicycle rack for the benefit of all the people who said the only reason they did not cycle was concern for safety, and all the others who will give up their gas-guzzling vehicles when oil supplies run out in the 2nd week of February next year.

  8. Elizabeth

    Fortuitous that the budget provides time for a design re-think. More time is valuable – here is the property investor/developer on his usual careful mission. Note he treats ODT with care. Got to love that.

    ### ODT Online Fri, 4 Jul 2014
    Hotel carpark stalls for now
    By Shawn McAvinue
    A four-level car park to be built behind the former chief post office in Dunedin has been put on hold. Building owner Geoff Thomson, of Distinction Hotels, said a “more cost-effective solution” was being investigated. Mr Thomson said the Bond St project had resource and building consent and would “go ahead at some stage”.
    Read more

  9. Elizabeth

    “High wind caused a large glass pane to fall from the second floor of Dunedin’s former chief post office building yesterday afternoon. Dunedin central fire station officer Phillip De Rooy said the 2sq m pane from the building, on the corner of Princes and Water Sts, dislodged during ”gusty” wind at about 5.40pm. The fire crew removed broken glass.”
    ODT Link

  10. Elizabeth

    Distinction Dunedin Hotel due to open in October 2015
    :D :D :D

    ### July 10, 2015 – 5:54pm
    Staff recruitment begins for new hotel
    Staff recruitment is beginning at a new hotel in the city.

  11. Elizabeth

    Searches today at What if? Dunedin include those for Geoff Thomson’s Distinction Dunedin Hotel at the former Chief Post Office in Princes Street.

    At Dunedin TV tonight, ODT says a Dunedin Apartment Hotel has sold to a foreign investor for more than $6 million.

    • Elizabeth

      Red carpet: DCC provided 32 leased car parks in the Dowling St car park to assist Mr Thomson with the build.

      ### ODT Online Wed, 22 Jul 2015
      Parking building taking shape behind former CPO
      By Shawn McAvinue
      Contractors work on the four-storey car parking building behind the former chief post office in Dunedin yesterday. Building owner Geoff Thomson, of Distinction Hotels, said Naylor Love Construction began work on the building on Monday. He expected the build to take about 23 weeks.
      Read more

      Opus Architecture [screenshot tweaked]
      Distinction Dunedin Hotel parking building [Opus Architecture] 2

  12. Anonymous

    Quest apartments

  13. Elizabeth

    The 1012sq m site sold as investment property with 10-year lease from 2012, plus three five-year rights of renewal, to the hotel’s operator QD Apartments Ltd.

    ### ODT Online Wed, 22 Jul 2015
    Overseas buyer for Quest
    By Damian George
    Dunedin’s Quest apartment building has been sold for $6.3 million to an overseas [Beijing] investor. The 42-room serviced apartment building in Cumberland St was sold by Bayleys Dunedin in conjunction with Bayleys International Division.
    Read more

  14. Elizabeth

    Tourism is continuing to provide solid returns in Dunedin, with figures showing last year was the best in five years for hotels.

    ### ODT Online Fri, 7 Aug 2015
    Great year for Dunedin hotels
    By David Loughrey
    […] The Tourism Industry Association (TIA) yesterday released figures showing Dunedin had the third-highest hotel occupancy rate in New Zealand, with the city recording 73.6%, behind only Auckland at 82.2% and Wellington at 74.6%. […] The hotels include the Scenic Hotel Group, the Victoria Hotel, Park Regis Dunedin and Quest Dunedin.
    Read more

    • Peter

      Interesting Quest is up for sale when they are part of a group of eight benefitting from increased patronage over the last five years with higher occupancy rates. Why sell now, I wonder?

  15. Elizabeth

    ### Friday, August 7, 2015
    Hotel operators celebrate stellar year
    Dunedin hotel operators are celebrating a stellar year, with a drastic upswing in occupancy numbers across the board. The success is revealed in the latest data from the Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand. And the local visitor sector’s set to receive a further boost.
    Ch39 Link

    39 Dunedin Television Published on Aug 7, 2015
    Hotel operators celebrate stellar year

  16. Elizabeth

    [click to enlarge]
    Former Chief Post Office, Dunedin [ 9195P-8] 2Former Chief Post Office, Dunedin circa 1935. Source: The Fletcher Trust Archive

  17. Elizabeth

    Cotton House Hotel, Barcelona
    [or simply, ‘Geoff Thomson doesn’t have this sort of budget, the architectural raw material, designer vision or potential clientele’ to fully realise a Chief Post Office Hotel]

    The Cotton House Hotel stands imposingly on the site of the former headquarters of the Cotton Textile Foundation “Fundación Textil Algodonera”, an emblematic 19th-century building in the neoclassical style which is a landmark in the city of Barcelona. Built on the orders of a family of the Catalan bourgeoisie when the textile industry was at its height, it was sold in the middle of the 20th Century to the Cotton Producers Guild which established its headquarters there with the aim of housing the highest possible number of cotton-producing bodies and services: the idea was to create a genuine Cotton House Hotel.

    Finally, at the initiative of a group of hotel promoters in Barcelona, the building commenced an intense refurbishment process which culminated in January 2015 to give the beautiful Cotton House Hotel.

    The refurbishment project has taken great care to maintain and recover all the original elements of the building. Acclaimed interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán was commissioned with the project and has done a marvellous job, reflecting a contemporary and sophisticated style which at the same time incorporates all the functionalities needed to assure the luxury level of service and comfort that our guests deserve.
    The original elements of the building have been conserved, such as the imposing marble staircase, delicate parquet and boiserie embellishing ceilings, floors and walls in some of the rooms. Also the famous spiral staircase built in 1957, the main feature of which is that it is not supported on the floor below, but is suspended from the metal frame of the upper floor, to give a light and airy aspect. At the same time, all the facilities of the building have been completely replaced, resulting in a distinguished setting full of history, yet modern and comfortable at the same time.

    Cotton House Hotel - exteriorCotton House Hotel - History 1Cotton House Hotel - History 2Cotton House Hotel - stairwellCotton House Hotel 6Cotton House Hotel 3
    Cotton House Hotel 5
    Cotton House Hotel - Rooms and Suites 1Cotton House Hotel - Vichy SuitesCotton House Hotel - Vichy Suites 2Cotton House Hotel - Taffeta SuitesCotton House Hotel - Vichy Suites 1

    More to see at:

  18. Elizabeth

    ### Last updated 17:13, September 9 2015
    Hundreds of job applicants check-in for hotel jobs
    By Hamish McNeilly
    Almost 400 job seekers applied for dozens of jobs at a new Dunedin hotel set to open at the former chief post office building. Distinction Hotels’ recruitment day at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery on Saturday attracted 387 applicants vying for just over 40 jobs.
    Read more

    The four-star-plus Distinction Dunedin Hotel will have 121 rooms, a restaurant, bar, conference facilities, on-site gym, with work continuing on a car park at the rear of the property.

  19. Elizabeth

    Most interior decorating work completed and the “main focus now is getting the joinery and floors finished”. –Geoff Thomson, building owner

    ### ODT Online Fri, 25 Sep 2015
    Hotel project near completion
    By Craig Borley
    It is the final push to the finish line for Dunedin’s Distinction Hotel, due to open in less than a month. The former chief post office building was swarming with construction workers yesterday: 126 were on site.
    Read more

    Otago Daily Times Published on Sep 23, 2015
    Hotel project near completion

  20. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Thu, 22 Oct 2015
    Hotel races to be ready for concert fans
    By Rhys Chamberlain
    The Distinction Dunedin Hotel staff and contractors are working long hours to be ready to accommodate guests visiting the city for Saturday’s Neil Diamond concert. Contractors had 176 workers on site at the former chief post office building on Monday and 143 yesterday in a push to be ready.
    Read more

    ● The Distinction Dunedin Hotel car park is expected to be ready in January.

  21. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Tue, 27 Oct 2015
    ‘Marvellous’ opening weekend for new hotel
    By Shawn McAvinue
    The opening weekend of the Distinction Dunedin Hotel was a success, the owner says. Geoffrey Thomson said staff and contractors had been “rushed” getting the 45 rooms booked in the former chief post office building in George St ready for guests.
    Read more

  22. Elizabeth

    The in-house restaurant Parcels reflects the building’s days as the chief post office. {In name ONLY. -Eds}

    ### ODT Online Sat, 7 Nov 2015
    First three floors of hotel about to open
    By James Hall
    The hotel taking shape in Dunedin’s former chief post office is fast approaching completion. Distinction Dunedin Hotel general manager Andrew Duncan said the hotel’s first three floors would be open for business on Monday, allowing for up to 71 guests until the rest of the building was ready.
    Read more

  23. Hype O'Thermia

    Updating –
    Waiter, waiter, don’t be slow, be like Elvis, go man go.

  24. Elizabeth

    Distinction Dunedin parking building to be finished by mid-February.

    ### ODT Online Sun, 20 Dec 2015
    Distinctive car park takes shape
    By Shawn McAvinue
    Contractors are on track to finish the four-storey car parking building behind the former Dunedin chief post office by mid-February. Building owner Geoff Thomson, of Distinction Hotels, said Naylor Love Construction began building in July.
    Read more

  25. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Fri, 18 Mar 2016
    Gearing up for use
    Photo by Peter McIntosh.
    Scaffolding is removed yesterday from the Distinction Dunedin Hotel’s new parking building in Crawford St. The four-level building has 150 parks.
    ODT Link

  26. Elizabeth

    Having privately toured the former chief post office building twice since the hotel opened (and three times before Geoff Thomson bought it as a ‘ruin’ care of Singaporean businessman George Wuu and righthand man Kingsley Kung with his gang affiliates) I can safely affirm the ‘advocacy’ nature of the award(s) and recognition given. The building owner has taken good care of the structure and has outlayed some very considerable funds to achieve successful tenanting of the redevelopment.

    In the alternative, I put my thoughts to brief critique, below.

    Wed, 30 Mar 2016
    ODT: Former chief post office wins top award
    The redevelopment of Dunedin’s former chief post office building [Distinction Hotel, 283 Princes St] has won the overall category at this year’s Dunedin Heritage Re-use Awards tonight. The hotel also won the award for best interior.

    Dunedin Chief Post Office [][]

    The hotel interior is comfortable yet dead for sound and a trace airless in the accommodation suites. The corridors to the rooms are long and grey and have no natural lighting; a misjudgment given the building’s U-plan shape which lends itself to clever niche-focused daylighting to horizontal circulation paths (but too late…). However, the corridors are relieved and distinguished by a creative selection of sympathetically framed black white photographic prints of the building before redevelopment but their appreciation is hampered by the lack of spot lighting (preferably not a track system); the prints deserve adjustable small-beam spots recessed into the hall ceiling or bulkheads, to keep painted surfaces smooth and uncluttered.

    Criticism of the building interior is really not to do with the standard fitout and scale of bedrooms and suites, it centres strongly on the uninspiring treatment of the main guest entry foyer off Bond St.

    The architectural handling of the main entry foyer borders on the insignificant – disappointing material and lighting choices have been made for surfaces, soft furnishings and furniture. The plan layout is excruciating. There is a lack of semi-private and intimate seating areas where people can greet their guests well away from people entering or leaving the building, or queueing at the reception counter. No space at all is given to micro-concessions such as a coffee servery or conviviality bar. The large dining room – aptly named Parcels – can be seen obliquely from the main entry but its detailing fails to pick up and develop the name theme; it feels temporary and camped, although the tables and chairs are comfortable enough to take you through your dining experience. Not enough finessing has been given to the breakfast area.

    So much lost design opportunity and spatial massage here for what should have been a truly welcoming introduction to a magnificent classically modern, masculinist large building. Undoubtedly, there is enough square metreage to get all the intimations right. Building users could have been indulged rather than given what amounts to a crampt and possibly hasty ‘coach tour set-down’ aesthetic – the intended market is largely this if we read the lower ground floor entry correctly.

    Extended family I’ve taken through have been shocked by the missed spatial and fitout potential ….if you have to be reduced to a ‘back door’ reception. Absolutely NO-ONE I know likes the tawdry mis-use of the building’s main entrance to Princes Street for Silver Fern Farms officing. The charms and decorum of the former post office are blatantly ignored, this is not a happy accomplishment.

    Let’s hope building owner Geoff Thomson or his descendants get the design and layout right in future years – nevertheless, he is still to be earnestly commended and applauded for turning this major building round, putting it to new use. An experienced commercial hospitality architect together with an expert interior fitout specialist when they can be afforded one day – would not go amiss. Then we will get ‘distinction’.

    • Hype O'Thermia

      Weird, that “just pop around to the side/back door” NZ thing. The public library feels like that too, to me. Yoo-hoo Shirley, I’ve just come to return your cup of sugar.
      The old Post Office had real “presence” when you went up the wide steps and into the front. It wasn’t lush – restrained and businesslike but not austere either.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s