New owner reveals plans to strengthen Center City shopping center in New Plymouth

Richard Tait, Chief Operating Officer of Primeproperty Group, and Sarah Marrs, Marketing Manager of Center City Mall, have big plans for the mall's future.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Richard Tait, Chief Operating Officer of Primeproperty Group, and Sarah Marrs, Marketing Manager of Center City Mall, have big plans for the mall’s future.

The new owner of Center City shopping center in New Plymouth says the complex, which has spent months under cloud cover as it is prone to earthquakes, is stronger than initially assessed, and will make it even stronger.

Last Friday, Primeproperty Group took possession of the mall after buying it from AMP Capital for an undisclosed price.

Reinforcement work on the mall will begin later this year.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Reinforcement work on the mall will begin later this year.

Six months ago, a voluntary seismic assessment undertaken by AMP Capital assessed the mall at less than 20% of the New Building Standard (NBS).

READ MORE:
* Seismic review rates New Plymouth’s largest shopping center at less than 20% of new construction standard
* Another business leaves New Plymouth’s downtown shopping center after an earthquake survey
* Earthquake-prone Taranaki Mall sold to Wellington developer

In the weeks that followed, at least three businesses moved, citing the memo.

However, Primeproperty Group chief operating officer Richard Tait said the original report was a draft and the most recent assessment had included “more testing”.

In a letter sent to tenants, Tait said the four buildings that make up the mall, which are connected by a single foundation, have “a rating between 40% and 55% NBS.”

“Therefore, none of the separate buildings that form the city center are classified as earthquake prone as previously stated,” the letter states.

On Wednesday, Tait said reinforcement work would begin later this year.

The mall has stunning sea views, and Tait discussed a rooftop bar early on.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

The mall has stunning sea views, and Tait discussed a rooftop bar early on.

The Wellington-based company plans to take action which is expected to take the mall to 67% of NBS.

“Most buildings in New Zealand are that or less,” Tait said.

“The work will be done after hours and mainly outside commercial areas.”

In addition to strengthening the buildings, Tait said the company hopes to “revitalize” the 36-year-old mall and engage more with the community.

“First, we want to lease all the stores.”

He said they plan to offer pop-up shop opportunities to emerging and start-up companies and initiatives, and to offer more during school holidays.

“We are a New Zealand company, we do things a little differently.”

They also had conversations about parking being available 24/7.

“Then the rest of the community can use it,” Tait said. “There are options.”

On top of that, Tait said he’s been “very early to talk” about a rooftop bar.

“We’re open to those kinds of ideas.”

For years, talk has swirled about the waterfront view afforded several downtown stores being underutilized.

The mall’s marketing manager, Sarah Marrs, said the coastal side of the mall had windows but tenants chose to black them out.

However, Tait said they were “open” to discussing improvements.

An artist's impression of what Currie St could look like under the proposed new town center strategy for New Plymouth.

NPDC

An artist’s impression of what Currie St could look like under the proposed new town center strategy for New Plymouth.

One discussion he had yet to have was with New Plymouth District Council regarding its $13 million proposal to make the city center a more attractive place to live and visit by 2050.

Revealed last year, part of the proposal included an artist’s impression of Currie Street as a permanent market area leading to the seafront.

This seemed to require access via the city center via a tunnel or open space.

Tait said he hadn’t “actually seen the blueprints”, but said they hadn’t bought the center to take it apart.

In March, it was reported that the mall would have been purchased for $20 million, significantly less than its last capital valuation of $63.35 million.

However, on Wednesday, Tait declined to confirm what Primeproperty had paid, citing commercial sensitivity.


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Peggy P. Gilmore