Demolition of the Albert Hotel in Hastings could begin in a month following a decision to allow the historic building and its facade to be pulled down.
The hotel's new owner, Michael Whittaker, said he'd lodge a demolition consent application with the Hastings District Council shortly to allow his redevelopment project to follow. The hotel is on the corner of Karamu St and Heretaunga St East and had a Category 2 protected listing under the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT).
The protection ensured the facade of the building stayed intact if the rest of the structure was redeveloped but Mr Whittaker won an exemption from the trust. "I think a common sense and pragmatic approach from the trust has recognised that the building was really past the point of repair. Its condition didn't allow any feasible building options. The trust has agreed not to object to the demolition on the entire building."
Mr Whittaker said he would largely follow the development plans he released after he bought the hotel in November 2012, which included a large green space, retail options and a feature that would mark the hotel's historic significance to Hastings.
It could involve a plaque or information board at the new development. "I think it's a bit too early to say for sure but those are options and will be up for consideration."
He'd look to re-use or recycle as much building material as he could. "There is a lot of native timber in there but again the condition of it is very poor. We'll want to maintain and re-use what we can."
NZHPT central region general manager Ann Neill said the hotel was a significant landmark and the city's oldest building. "A number of proposals have been considered that would have retained the facade of the historic hotel, but were unfortunately not viable. The building's fabric has now deteriorated to the point that it holds little possibility for future re-use or redevelopment, and so NZHPT will not oppose the demolition of the Albert Hotel when consent for the demolition and new development is lodged."
She said decisions about partial or full demolition were considered by the trust case by case.
Hawke's Bay historian Michael Fowler agreed the hotel had fallen into disrepair over time. "In an ideal world the building or facade would be saved and put to some commercial or otherwise use but the reality is no one is willing to take this on.
"Therefore I believe the best option is to demolish what is now an eyesore." He commended Mr Whittaker for planning a memorial to the hotel. "Incorporating some of the wood in a feature or naming the location Albert Square maybe a suitable memorial."
Hastings Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers said the development plans for the site worked in with the Hastings District Council's strategy to upgrade downtown Hastings.
"His [Mr Whittaker's] plans are also going to work well also for the retailers in that part of town as it will be a catalyst for the redevelopment and culture which is emerging in that block."
Council staff have been speaking to Mr Whittaker on a possible feature to mark the hotel.