Historic Dunedin building ripe for redevelopment

4:44 PM Wednesday September 21, 2016 Colin Taylor

The building was originally constructed in 1896 as The Agricultural Hall.

A 19th century historic building in Dunedin which once played a major part in the city’s entertainment scene is for sale as a freehold property in a regenerating part of the city.

“It’s an excellent location and offers huge potential to redevelop and add value,” says Dean Collins, associate director in Colliers International’s Dunedin office, who is marketing 65 Crawford St for sale by deadline private treaty closing on October 12.

“Most recently known as Sammy’s Music Venue, this substantial property is for sale for the first time in decades, with the termination of the current ground lease as part of the terms of sale,” Collins says.

The large 1146sq m site sits within the Warehouse Precinct, where a number of former industrial buildings are being redeveloped into character space for commercial and residential uses.

The building was originally constructed in 1896 as the Agricultural Hall. In 1902 it was renamed His Majesty’s Theatre, seating around 1850 people for live performances and movies.

The Otago Daily Times reported that some of the luminaries who performed at the theatre, such as Sir Laurence Olivier and Olivia de Havilland, Sir Ralph and Lady Richardson, Dame Sybil Thorndike and Sir Lewis Casson, have engraved their names around the theatre, recording some of the building’s history in its walls.

The orchestra pit is covered with the inscribed names of musicians dating back to 1904, and empty champagne bottles from 1903, 1905 and 1906 were also found. “The Old H. M.”, as it became affectionately known, has also hosted the Grand Russian Ballet, as well as boxing matches and ice shows in the 1940s and 1950s.

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Most recently, 65 Crawford St, has been known as Sammy’s Music Venue. 

The building languished in the 1960s and 1970s and its ornate Renaissance facade was demolished in 1975. It was given a new lease on life in 1983 by Dunedin businessmen, the late Eddie Chin and his son Sam as Sammy’s Cabaret and Restaurant. Sammy's quickly became a venue of choice for international touring acts and a focal point for local bands.

Collins says the building, located on a main arterial route into central Dunedin, has two street frontages to Crawford St and Vogel St, giving it excellent visual exposure.

“It’s quite rare for large, high profile freehold properties in central locations like this to be put on the open market in Dunedin. We’re expecting it to generate quite a bit of interest given its history, as well as the potential to refurbish the building and create something new in a rapidly-developing part of the city.”

“A site like 65 Crawford St is likely to be viewed as a prime candidate for a character redevelopment, as it contains many features from its long history as a theatre.”

Several well-known retail occupiers are in the surrounding area, including McKenzie and Willis, Repco, Briscoes and Rebel Sport.

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Dean Collins, Colliers International.