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Historic church building for sale is ripe for conversion by residential developers

A landmark Mount Eden church building which served congregations for over a century and has been earmarked for residential development has been placed on the market for a mortgagee sale.

The heritage-listed former St James Church was built on a high-profile corner site in the heart of residential Mount Eden in 1900. It served the Pacific Island Presbyterian community as a place of worship from the 1970s until its closure in 2012.

Its Presbyterian owners signed a sale agreement six years ago and it has since sat vacant amid proposals for its development.

The end of its use as a church follows a trend which has seen religious organisations dispose of hundreds of buildings over recent decades as dwindling worshippers struggle to meet upkeep and restoration costs – leaving developers to successfully repurpose the real estate for commercial uses.

In the 2018 census just under half of New Zealanders said they had no religion – up from 30 percent in 2001 and just 10 percent in 1951. Since 1981 the number of Presbyterian parishes fell by around 100 to fewer than 400, according to a survey by the Presbyterian Church Property Trustees.

The freehold property for sale at 31 Esplanade Road, Mount Eden, comes with an existing resource consent for a residential conversion and offers a range of development, occupation and add-value opportunities.

The land and former church building are being marketed for sale by mortgagee tender closing on 8 October (unless sold prior) through Bayleys Auckland Central.

Salespeople Alan Haydock and Damien Bullick said the property on the corner of Esplanade and View roads consisted of the church building of some 300 square metres on approximately 2,272 square metres of freehold land. The property is being offered for sale with vacant possession.

Mr Haydock said the site was made up of two main parts. “In addition to the heritage-listed building previously used as the St James Church, there is approximately 900 square metres of surplus vacant land which is suitable for residential development,” he said.

“The former St James Church structure was designed by Robert Watt and John Mitchell and built in 1900. It has had a resource consent granted for conversion into four residential apartments – but would equally be suited to refurbishment and development for a range of alternative uses, subject to council consents.

“The surplus land presents an attractive development opportunity in an established and highly sought-after residential area, which lies in the “double grammar zone” for entry to Auckland Boys and Epsom Girls Grammar schools,” Mr Haydock said.

The Esplanade Road property is zoned Residential – Mixed Housing Urban under Auckland Council’s unitary plan. This allows for medium-density residential development, including standalone or terraced housing or low-rise apartment buildings. Council development controls allow for a maximum building height of 11 metres plus one metre for roof form, and a maximum site coverage of 45 percent.

“The site’s zoning category seeks to boost the capacity and choice of housing in residential locations as well as promoting walkable neighbourhoods, fostering a sense of community and increasing the vitality of local centres,” said Mr Haydock.

The property at 31 Esplanade Road has an Auckland Council Category B historic heritage listing in recognition of the building’s significant social, physical and aesthetic values.

Mr Bullick said residential development by future owners would be supported by the site’s amenity-rich location.

“Positioned at the corner of Esplanade Road and View Road, this site is a short walk from the hospitality and shopping precincts of Mount Eden village and Dominion Road,” he said.

“The surrounding area is typified by a mix of character homes and some modern, medium-density residential developments, with good access to parks – including the popular Maungawhau/Mount Eden Domain just a block away to the east.”

The property was less than 10 minutes’ drive from Auckland’s central business district with convenient access via the arterial routes of Dominion and Mount Eden roads, Mr Bullick said.

“This location is also very well served by public transport, including frequent city bus services. It is just a few hundred metres from Mount Eden train station which is currently undergoing a major upgrade to become part of the City Rail Link. This will greatly improve train services to and from the CBD and wider city when it opens in 2024.”

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