Hanging onto historic Napier

3:34 PM Friday August 2, 2019 True Commercial

The Sainsbury Logan & Williams building, on the corner of Tennyson St and Cathedral Lane, Napier.

A Hawke's Bay property with a storied history dating back to 1886 has been bought by a former Napier man with a passion for preserving heritage.

The Sainsbury Logan & Williams building, on the corner of Tennyson St and Cathedral Lane, was sold in a deal brokered by Colliers International.

It is the first time in more than 130 years that the property has not been owned by partners of the long-established law firm.

The buyer, Stephen Matthews, grew up in the Hawke's Bay, attending Onekawa school and Colenso High School. He now lives in Auckland but plans to resettle in the Hawke's Bay.

Colliers International broker Dan Walker, who handled the sale with colleague Cam Ward, says he is thrilled to have found a buyer with such a strong affinity for Napier's heritage.

"When Stephen asked me to show him some properties, his passion for heritage became apparent straight away," Walker said.

"I took him to see the Sainsbury Logan & Williams chambers, then owned by two current and two retired partners of the firm.

"The owners were looking to divest to ensure landlord and tenant separation, providing the ideal opportunity for Stephen to put in an offer. We negotiated a deal that both parties were happy with."

The premises sold for $2.65m, a yield of 6.15 per cent on $163,000 annual rent.
Matthews says he's thrilled to have the opportunity to help preserve Napier's past.
"The Sainsbury Logan & Williams chambers is a special building in a special location, right in the centre of Napier's Art Deco quarter.

"Owning a heritage building certainly comes with challenges, but the vendors have done well to preserve the character of the building while also investing significantly in earthquake strengthening.

"There's a delicate balance between preserving heritage and ensuring a building is fit for purpose, and I'll do my best to achieve that."

The property comprises three separate but interconnected buildings, each with a unique history.

The distinctive corner building, at 61 Tennyson St, was built after the original chambers, dating back to 1886, were all but destroyed in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake.

The only surviving parts of the original building were the strong room, which was protected by a heavy door more than a foot thick, and a smaller ancillary.

The strong room preserved hundreds of land titles and other documents that would have otherwise perished in the fires that raged through Napier following the quake.

These were used to reconstruct the documents at the Lands and Deeds Office in Napier, all of which had been destroyed.

To rebuild after the quake, the law firm engaged Finch & Westerholm architects, who incorporated the surviving strong room into the new design.

Completed in 1932, the building is an amalgam of architectural elements including an Italian Renaissance-inspired façade, Louisiana-style metalwork and a tiled parapet with a clear Spanish Mission influence.

It still retains many of its distinctive Art Deco features including a Terrazzo tiled entranceway and a cupola with lead lighting.

The adjoining Munster Chambers building on Tennyson St was completed in 1933. A shamrock graces the Art Deco façade as a nod to the Irish roots of the North Island's former name, New Munster. The law firm bought Munster Chambers in 1977.

The final addition came in 1992, when Sainsbury Logan & Williams bought the Anglican church's former office building on Cathedral Lane.

All three buildings are now interconnected. Munster Chambers was joined to the main building in 1981 and the Anglican church office in 2007. The buildings are now in good hands, with Matthews able to draw on his experience of owning historic Turville House in Plimmerton, Porirua.

Located high on a hill at 75 Motuhara Rd, the house was built between 1907 and 1910 by Sir George Troup, then the chief architect for NZ Railways.

It shares many design features with Dunedin Railway Station, which Sir George also built in 1907. He later went on to become Wellington Mayor from 1927 to 1931.

Matthews and his wife Gayle O'Brien bought the house and spent nine months restoring it over 2004 and 2005. The couple sold it in 2017 when they moved to Auckland.