In 2009, the building was identified as earthquake prone.
The earthquake risk didn’t deter the new potential owners, who bought the rather run-down building with their eyes wide open.
"It ticked all the boxes for us – anyone that invests in property in New Zealand must be aware that earthquake strengthening is something that needs to be taken into consideration.”
The next step was to get an archaeological assessment and have a design outline for earthquake strengthening, and then obtain resource consent to start works.
The project received $18,000 from the Council’s Built Heritage Incentive Fund to help protect the heritage values of the building, and to endorse the Council’s priority for earthquake strengthening and protection of critical access routes.
Since the completion of the project and restoring the building to its former glory, the building is now home to popular restaurant Ombra.
“Everyone wanted the site – because of the building, but also because of the vehicle and foot traffic that it gets. We had people coming from all over to show their interest, and we didn’t have to offer any incentives at all.
“A brewery and a couple of local restaurateurs were interested, but when we looked at Russell Scott’s other ventures (Leuven, Avida) we knew he was the right fit and a good operator – and Ombra has proven us right.”
Bill attributes the Cuba Street boom to the way local stakeholders have worked together, as well as to the heritage buildings in the area. He believes it’s just going to get better and better.
“The heritage of the area has really contributed to the development of Cuba Street, and with a joint effort between property owners seeing the benefits of these buildings, and more financial support from the Council and Government, this place is going to be even more special in the next 10 to 20 years.
“The Council has done up Cuba Mall and they are doing up lower Cuba Street, and hopefully they’ll do some upgrade work in the upper area soon too.”
And would Bill do it again? Yes, in a flash: “I’d do another project with a heritage building because when it’s done you look at it and it’s a work of art, but it also makes money – and it’s really something to be proud of.”