First stage of $15.5M supermarket site redevelopment opens

5 Aug 2020, 10:10 AM

A $15.5 million redevelopment of a high-profile former Whangārei supermarket site is largely complete with a dawn blessing ceremony – including a plaque unveiling – to mark its first tenants officially setting up shop there.

Chair Penny Smart making a speech.Chair Penny Smart expresses the NRC’s thanks to all those who worked on the successful Stage One redevelopment of a former supermarket site in Kensington during a dawn blessing to mark the occasion.

Northland Regional Council (NRC) Chair Penny Smart says councillors expect the development will breathe new life and vibrancy into the Kensington area, with a medical centre, gym, physio and several food outlets among the new tenants to come.

“Supporting the economic recovery of our region and the wellbeing of our communities is a real priority for our council, and we’re really thrilled that this redevelopment will have a hand in that.”

“As well as creating a new business hub in the area that’ll connect and service the local community, the new tenants will bring with them much-needed new local jobs.”

As site owner, the council has been working with project development partner Argyle Estates Ltd since late 2018, with Whangārei-based Arco Group awarded the main contract for the redevelopment just under a year ago.

Chair Smart says the council was delighted with both the quality and pace of the work (despite losing 23 working days to the national pandemic lockdown/response) and the NRC and local tangata whenua Te Parawhau had been thrilled to host the Monday, 03 August blessing.

The project involved a significant refurbishment of the existing former Countdown supermarket building, now split into about a dozen tenancies. The revamp is planned to be completed in two stages, with the recent ceremony marking the formal opening of the first stage.

Nick Swain and Raniera Hauraki.Nick Swain, General Manager of anchor tenant Kensington Health chats to Te Parawhau kaumatua Raniera Hauraki after the dawn blessing.

A medical precinct – home to Kensington Health and Team Dental – takes up the western side, with a gym and separate physio business (both preferring to remain anonymous at this stage) expected to occupy the eastern side facing Kamo Rd. The latter area will also be home to other ‘convenience retail’ and hospitality businesses.

Among those already signed up are BurgerFuel, Lone Star, Sal’s Pizza, St Pierre’s Sushi and Tank, which the NRC says will boost eating options for local residents and tourists alike, drawing them into Whangārei and on to other activities.

The other part of the development will see early childhood education provider Best Start construct a new building on the northern part of the site, which is expected to cater for up to 75 children.

(While the council had originally intended to retain the title, it had agreed to sell the 1700 square metre portion to a family trust associated with the charitable child care centre operator, Best Start. The sale – for an undisclosed sum – means the operator will own and operate the building and the land it sits on outright.)

Chair Smart says the bulk of the Kensington site remains in council ownership as a tenanted investment, with returns used to subsidise rates and council activities. 

Argyle’s Development Manager, Gerome Powell, says the company has enjoyed working with the council on the project.

The redevelopment’s appeal had been reflected in that – even with the uncertainty surrounding the current pandemic response – all the tenants who had expressed an initial interest in locating there had pressed ahead with their plans.

Chair Smart says the second stage of the project – including construction and subsequent associated store outfitting – is expected to continue up until Christmas and a number of tenants would not begin physically operating until early next year.

Group of people at dawn blessing.

Regional council members and staff, local tangata whenua, contractors and key tenants were among those who attended a dawn blessing to mark the near completion of a $15.5 million redevelopment of a high-profile former Whangārei supermarket site.