SkyscraperCity Forum banner

WILLIS CENTRAL | Under Construction

25618 Views 104 Replies 30 Participants Last post by  deepred
Just to whet everyone's appetite... The fact that Munns Menswear on Willis is having a demolition sale is just the start of something potentially big. As mentioned in a previous post, the whole row from 22-48 Willis St will be bowled over, and apparently, No. 50-52 may be retained as part of the façade. At this stage, it's still under wraps, but WellUrban has previously written on it.

Article from New Zealand Construction News (c. August 2007)

Nation's first vertical village structure planned as new capital centrepiece

Ian Cassels, proprietor of The Wellington Company vows to create a new centerpiece building for the capital. Typical of the capital’s leading individual developer-constructor, he has more than just words and concepts to offer. He has the two frontage site safely in his hands in order to build his new alternative civic epicentre.

Ian Cassels with his projects chief, John Feast

It is the old Airways House, slap in the middle of lower Willis Street, close to Lambton Quay, and a stone’s throw away from the existing civic center, the official one. It also directly opposite the Willis Bond Chews Lane development being built by L.T. McGuinness (see profile, Construction News, November 2006)

Mr Cassels quietly acquired the old Golden Mile eyesore of Airways House some time ago. In keeping with his reputation for going where others simply do not go, he quietly, yet sensationally, started developing the site several years ago when he built on the vacant area at the rear, the world’s first inner city portable apartments.

A feature of the Airways House site is a double street frontage. There is the Willis Street one, and it backs onto Boulcott Street, once a prized area, but now something of a backwater. In between the two frontages there is a car park upon which Mr Cassels erected his portable apartments, which resemble a tropical stilt village and a Paris Beaubourg style design with its external ducts and plumbing.

The scheduled new site encompassing pending total building will be known as Willis Central and it will be what Mr Cassels describes as the nation’s first ‘vertical village.’

As Australasia’s first inner city vertical village it will comprise apartments, offices, recreational space, in fact everything that anyone might normally find in a community. One feature not normally found in villages, though, will be a helipad.

Mr Cassels’s determination to keep the capital’s urban feet to his creative fires was braced at the end of last year, with his just completed Conservation House receiving the five star Green Building acclamation.

The site was formerly the abandoned Hoyts cinema complex near the corner of Manners Street and Willis Street. Mr Cassels scooped out the old cinema configuration from the building, which was erected by Chase during the 1980s property boom heyday. He converted the complex into an energy-conserving atrium style building that is now inhabited by the Conservation Department.

Chill beams and an external double wall, which acts as an enclosing curtain chimney or convection duct, have replaced conventional air conditioning. Conservation House was awarded the five stars rating by the Green Building movement because of the way in which original materials were re-used and minimum energy expended in its construction and subsequent use as a commercial building.

Mr Cassels notes that the Conservation Department had considered moving to the Centreport office park opposite the Westpac Stadium, (see Construction News November 2006).

In the event, the Conservation Department had perceived the energy savings and conservation elements inherent in Mr Cassel’s preservation yet substantial modification of the old Hoyts cinema complex.

They also recognised, he notes now, the inherent conservation factor of remaining in the ‘intensity’ of the CBD. He said that the way in which Wellington people all worked together in the same compact areas was itself an example of conservation.

He compared the Wellington scene with Auckland’s in which most transactions involved “driving from one end of the city to another.” Auckland, he observed, was developing into a series of satellite cities that required ever-increasing transport arteries to co-exist, and thus ever more dependence on energy consumption.

In contrast, Wellington had cohesion due to its focused CBD. Everyone was in the same place, and thus walking took over from fossil fuel driven personal encounters. Around the world, he said, office parks, such as the one underway on the port land, had been a failure. “The people who work there – they are prisoners, they can’t get out. They have nowhere else to go. If they want to go somewhere they’ve got to drive. Or, be driven there.”

The new Conservation House in the old Hoyts complex formally opened in February, though the Conservation Department itself moved in at the end of 2006. Meanwhile, it is expected that work is imminent on the new Willis Central vertical village based on the existing Airways House.

Mr Cassels is widely credited with saving Cuba Street, the original heart of Wellington’s retail and entertainment area. The district receives a special citation in The Lonely Planet in its new incarnation as the heart of the capital’s funky café and arts barrio.

Mr Cassels contradicts the notion that heavy office rents are forcing institutional tenants to consider the former port land for new head offices. He cites figures to show that in value terms, rents in Wellington are substantially less than they were during the 1980s property boom.

Mr Cassels is convinced that his new Willis Centre/Airways House vertical village will still further enhance Wellington’s reputation as the city that people want to visit most of all. He believes that direct long-haul flights into Wellington airport will reinforce Wellington as the city that Asians prefer to visit.

A problem, he believes, is that the weight of the Labour coalition’s urban development strategies has been concentrated on Auckland. “Look at the stadium, the entire government was on hand immediately the issue arose and they were ready to build one. In contrast, the Transmission Gully route into Wellington is years away.”

Mr Cassels began as a conservation minded developer constructor in 1990 when, he recalls, Wellington was “bleak and gloomy. In those days we employed all the carpenters and plumbers and the rest of the industry sat there too frightened to do anything.” Now he said, a situation existed in Wellington in which it would be virtually impossible for a commercial construction firm NOT to make a handsome profit.

In spite of the relative success of the Green political party in New Zealand, Mr Cassels outlined a general picture of ignorance in which even those who were part of the industry failed to understand how commuting costs had become such a large component of the energy and environmental depletion problem. One breakthrough, he noted, was that building by laws no longer required car parks for all apartments.

When his new civic center vertical village in the form of Willis Centre was brought to life, he emphasised, it would be conclusively demonstrated how its inhabitants did not need cars. “They will have everything there that they need in order to work, play, and relax. They will not need to leave it, and thus they won’t need a car.”

Mr Cassels said that the moveable apartments on sheer legs on the current car park of Airways House, a car park that will no longer be needed in its pending car-less Willis Centre new life. They will be simply moved to another home somewhere else. Ideally, complete with their occupants.

See less See more
1 - 20 of 105 Posts
Sounds great deepred. Look forward to hearing more about this one :cheers:
Another one to keep an eye on. Plenty is happening in Wellington, we need more roving reporters on the ground. Anybody willing and able to take some shots of the proposed site?
Here's #22-42 (and in the background is the 1960s modernist lump known as #44-48) as of 2007...

... and evidence of the demolition sale.

See less See more
Wasn't there talk of something reasonably tall going in Willis Street on an earlier thread?
... and evidence of the demolition sale.
Well, demolition can't be imminent, since they haven't even applied for building consent to demolish yet.
Well, demolition can't be imminent, since they haven't even applied for building consent to demolish yet.
That much is true. However there is a half-page advert in today's DomPost from Munns, saying the landlord has notified them of demolition after the end of lease. I'll try and get a scan of the advert sooner or later.
How many of those buildings are being demolished. Is that hideous 6 storey building to the left of Munns Menswear going down as well, that's one ugly building, and what about that shopping arcade directly on the right on Munns will that be going too.
How many of those buildings are being demolished. Is that hideous 6 storey building to the left of Munns Menswear going down as well. That's one ugly building.
I've been told the whole row from No 22-48 wil lbe bowled over, and Nos 50-54 will probably be kept as a façade.

And "the old Golden Mile eyesore of Airways House", in Ian Cassels' own words, is indeed part of the plan.
Is that 6 storey building airways house and what number is Munns
Is that 6 storey building airways house and what number is Munns
(Ex-) Airways House - right on. Munns is No 22-26.
Awesome i really hate that building. It's just a shame that ugly shopping centre to the right of Munns isn't going as well, then lower Willis would have been rid of all of its eyesores once and for all.
Awesome i really hate that building. It's just a shame that ugly shopping centre to the right of Munns isn't going as well, then lower Willis would have been rid of all of its eyesores once and for all.
That one's part of the Grand Arcade and is completely separate from the Willis Central proposal. As far as I can tell, the current owners of the Grand Arcade are happy to rest on their laurels.
Maybe the 'Grand' Arcade will feel oblidged to tart themselves up when that street becomes a fantastic strip. They might have to to stop from losing tenants.
The bottom of Willis is turning into quite the strip isn't it - well, it will do if the proposal for a tower above New World goes ahead to compliment this and Chews Lane.
^^ And not to forget they're also trying to develop the site between the majestic centre and the proposed new world tower. I spoke to the staff at Katipo cafe the other day (whose building will be demolished to make way for the entrance to that site). They said they've got 1 year left on their lease, but that the developer had been trying to get them out early to make way for construction. So that would be rather a lot of cranes on willis street!

Having said that they're still looking for an anchor tenant for that building as far as i know, and nothing has been submitted for consent.
What about height?
The plans are still under embargo, nothing's been officially released yet. But with such a long row earmarked for demolition, it can't be small.
I stand corrected on No. 22-42 Willis St. Turns out 22-42 Willis is to be developed by the owner of the Grand Arcade, not the Wellington Company. So Willis Central will likely cover 44-54 Willis. Still, if it's remotely tall enough, 22-42 Willis may warrant its own thread.
1 - 20 of 105 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.