Turn Wellington’s St Gerard’s into apartments or hotel

St Gerard’s Monastery, on a hill overlooking Oriental Parade, is unquestionably one of Wellington’s landmark buildings. It is also an earthquake risk.

Rex Nicholls, a Wellington property developer and husband of a former Mayor has, by way of a letter to the editor, offered the church some free advice on how to fund the earthquake strengthening of St Gerard’s.

“I realise the current use of it can’t pay the strengthening costs, but its tenant could operate from an unused church or hall in the suburbs. There are plenty to choose from. The building needs a new use. A high-quality hotel or expensive apartments would work”, he says.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust lists St Gerard’s as a Category 1 which means it is considered to be a building of “special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value”.

In an interview given earlier this year St Gerard’s maintenance and restoration trust chairman, Gordon Copeland, said  the Church and Monastery stand at about 27% of the standard required for a new building.

It would cost up to $10 million to bring them up to even 67 per cent of those standards.

Copeland said  that was beyond the sum anyone could expect to raise in a public fundraising campaign and he suggested it would probably be more realistic to strengthen the buildings to 34 per cent of code, although it was yet to be determined how much that would cost.

The Historic Places Trust trust has been  working with the Wellington City Council to encourage strengthening but it was a challenge, central region general manager Ann Neill said. “There’s a gap between the market value of the building, in this recessionary time, and the costs. That’s a deterrent for an owner and a barrier to their decision.”

The trust wanted to persuade owners they had good reason to strengthen – even if the initial work was minor. She suggested Wellington adopt a strategy from Dunedin, where a targeted rate on heritage buildings will be used to fund low-interest loans for strengthening work.

The church was built by the Redemptorists in 1908, the Monastery in 1932. In 1988 increasing rates and declining numbers forced them to put the property on the market. In 1992 It was purchased by  the International Catholic Programme of Evangelisation (ICPE) for use as a retreat and training centre for evangelist missionaries.

In recognition of the monastery’s importance as a historic landmark, the Wellington City Council purchased land in front of the monastery to prevent it being obscured by new buildings.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

Tags: , , , ,