A building dubbed “Mark’s Folly” after the price the developer has paid to restore it will soon be Wellington’s newest hotel.
The former T&G building, also known as the Harcourts building, has been leased for 20 years to experienced hotel operator Sarin Investments.
Sarin has not yet decided which international brand it will partner with, but it will likely be a four and a half star hotel.
“Mark’s Folly” was what developer Mark Dunajtschik nicknamed the building after he lost a Environment Court case seeking the right to knock it down.
Dunajtschik argued that the heritage building, while charming, was worth less than the cost of bringing it up to building code.
But after losing the case, he vowed to restore the 1920s building to its former glory.
Sarin, which has been run hotels under the IHG, Accor, and Choice brands, will also run the new Lower Hutt Events Centre and develop an adjacent hotel there next year.
Run by Raman Sarin, the company owns or operates more than 2000 rooms in New Zealand, Australia and the US.
It’s also developing a Holiday Express in Christchurch with IHG and is converting a Queenstown property into a Holiday Inn.
Udai Sarin, speaking on his father’s behalf, said it was hoped to open the T&G hotel in about a year.
In his opinion, it was one of the best corporate locations in the city and a beautiful restoration, for which Dunajtschik deserved credit.
“He spent a fortune on it.
“Yes, it’s not been that fun for him to what he’s had to do but he’s produced in the end a fantastic building and I think people can agree that that location, the look of the building would really suit a boutique hotel.”
The hotel would probably have a lobby bar on the ground floor, a restaurant upstairs and up to 112 rooms with high-stud ceilings which would make them feel airy, he said.
“Because it’s a not a new build, you’ve got the luxury of actually having a building that is larger than what you would build today.”
Sarin said the Wellington market was one his family knew well, having managed the Quest on a nearby corner years ago.
And he believed there was unmet demand in the Wellington market for four-and-a-half star hotel rooms.
“I think the hotel market – I wouldn’t say it’s undersupplied, but I certainly think that the product currently is dating and ageing.”
“Mark’s Folly” is considered one of the city’s best examples of the Chicago style of architecture.
Notable features included its marble lobby, the copper lifts, and the wooden stairwell.
Glen Hooker, who has overseen the building’s redevelopment work, declined to reveal how much had been spent or what its value was now.
But he said a hotel was always Dunajtschik’s first choice for the building.
At the time, its restoration had not been commercially viable but happily Wellington’s CBD had since come back to life.
“It’s amazing how the market has shifted in Wellington in the last three years. When I first got involved there was a lot of empty retail space on Lambton Quay and the projection going forward for the amount office space that was beginning to become available was significant.”
He said the cost of restoring the building would have been prohibitive for most people.
“Buildings like this, it takes a lot of energy and passion to bring them back but it also takes a person like Mark to allow it to happen. He deserves all the accolades.”
Source: The Stuff | Business Day