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Opportunity for a slice of Gisborne's history

29 Jul 2011

Opportunity for a slice of Gisborne's history

Council is looking for Expressions of Interest to either purchase or lease the former The Works Cafe building for commercial use. 

The last remaining building of the Kaiti Freezing Works plus around 2000sq m of Port A-zoned land via an Expressions of Interest campaign to gauge demand and vision for the site.  Expressions of Interest through Bayleys real estate are being sought from those wishing to either purchase the property or to lease the land and buildings.The former The Works Cafe

Council has identified the building as integral to the future redevelopment and beautification of the city’s inner harbour area and a major structural strengthening programme is currently underway to ensure that that this important piece of Gisborne’s history is retained for future generations.

The striking building was acquired under a land swap agreement with Eastland Port Limited and Council agreed to undertake structural repairs vital to the on-going longevity of the character-filled building which has a special place in the hearts and minds of so many Gisborne folk.

Council's commercial property manager Matt Feisst, says commitment has been made to save the building; a solid plan is now needed to how this landmark building is best used.

“The building is currently vacant. Earthquake strengthening work was necessary so the building complied with building standards. The scheduled work includes new foundations, structural steel strengthening and a new roof which will bring the building to 67 percent compliance under current building codes,” explains Mr Feisst.

“The Council has a contract to purchase the land and buildings under an arrangement with Eastland Port Limited but for now, we are leasing the property whilst strengthening work is carried out.”

“Without Council intervention, the building could have been demolished and part of Gisborne’s industrial heritage would have been lost forever. We do recognise that the building is historically significant to the city,” says Mr Feisst.

Bayleys Gisborne has been appointed to present the building to the public by way of a targeted marketing campaign as Mr Feisst says it is a unique building and the Council wanted to get as much exposure for the property as possible before making a final decision on its future.

Expressions of Interest close Thursday 25 August.

Mr Feisst says the building has plenty of personality and effectively ‘anchors’ the public space around the inner harbour. As such, it is important that Council finds the best owner and or operator for the property.

“The look and feel of the building is central to Council’s plans for the area as a whole to be a destination for people to enjoy. We would like to create a pedestrian-friendly multi-use green space which could be a hub for events and which would ensure that the inner harbour area is a useable space much like the Wellington waterfront and Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour development,” says Mr Feisst.

“We hope that by opening up the land and buildings to the public via this Expressions of Interest marketing campaign, we will find commercially-viable proposals from people who are genuinely interested in the revitalisation of this inner harbour area.

“Under the District Plan’s zoning scheme the history of the building since the closure of the freezing works has been hospitality-based.”

Mr Feisst explains that once the proposals have been received – whether from potential lessees or parties interested in purchasing the land and buildings for a commercial use – Council will weigh up the options to see which ones align with their own vision for the area and which also deliver the best commercial return to the Council.

As the only remaining portion of the original Kaiti Freezing Works, the brick building - which until quite recently housed the Works Winery and Restaurant - was once the sausage making factory and later the dry store, while upstairs was the carpenters’ workshop.

The building is woven into local folklore with almost everyone in Gisborne knowing someone who used to work there and is a slice of Gisborne history preserved for everyone to see and be a part of.

In its heyday, the freezing works was one of 5 operating on the East Coast but by 1952 it was the only one remaining. And then, on 19 August 1994, the imposing wrought iron gates – which still stand today – were closed to 650 workers for good as liquidators came in to wind up the company.

The freezing works used to be famed for having the largest brick facade in the Southern hemisphere. What we see today is the only piece of the structure retained when the works were demolished in 1996.

A memorial stands at the top of Kaiti Hill looking down towards the building commemorating the 22 freezing workers who lost their lives during World War I. The inscription reads: ‘To our boys who in the Great War died or were willing to die for the Empire. This memorial was erected by their comrades, January 1923’.

The Poverty Bay Herald dated 15 June 1920 discusses the proposal for the memorial which was originally planned to be erected on the flat between Niven and Co engineering and the freezing works so that workers would pass it each day on their way to work. The (then) Gisborne Sheepfarmers Frozen Meat Company made a donation towards the memorial with the balance coming from the workers themselves.