Holy Trinity Cathedral land leased: Trees, homes gone for apartment project

Parnell’s Holy Trinity Cathedral says it has leased a prominent corner site for a new multi-million dollar apartment development where initial work is under way.

Holy Trinity Cathedral Dean Anne Mills announced the leasehold deal. Trees and two old wooden residential buildings have been cleared and demolished and the site has been partially fenced in preparation for earthworks.

A scaffold was also erected before Christmas, showing potential heights and views.

Mills said in 2019 that money was needed from the apartment scheme for annual cathedral, grounds and associated building maintenance.

The now-fenced titles behind the cathedral are at 1a Brighton Rd and 9 St Stephens Ave, on the St Stephens Ave corner, a block down from Parnell Rd.

Three years ago, Mills said annual costs for running the cathedral were $300,000-plus but predicted to rise.

So the leasehold deal was important.

The two sites, zoned for terraces and apartments under the Auckland Unitary Plan, would be leased long-term to a developer for apartment development, she said then.

Seventeen protected trees in the wider cathedral precinct would be kept.

The multi-level old wooden homes – now demolished- were not listed as heritage buildings and it was not economically feasible to keep them because refurbishment to a commercial standard would be so expensive, she said then.

Due to the homes’ size and their structure, it had proved “too expensive and as a result, the decision has been made to demolish the two buildings”.

Mills told the congregation that many would know the cathedral had been working with the diocese general trust board during the last several years to achieve a sale, of either a ground lease or of the freehold, of the half-acre section on the corner of St Stephens Ave and Brighton Rd.

“The intent of the sale has been to create an endowment fund, controlled by the general trust board as the entity that formally owns all church property in the diocese, to provide for future property maintenance costs of the cathedral and of St Mary’s,” Mills wrote last year.

That fund would lighten the financial burdens, allow the church to cope with large and unexpected property costs and provide opportunities to develop other areas of ministry, she said.

“The good news is that the general trust board have concluded a ground lease sale that is now going through a conditional due diligence process period for the purchaser,” she told the congregation last June.

“It is proposed that a substantial quality residential apartment building will be built on the site, in line with the terrace housing and apartment zoning that applies to the corner property,” she told the congregation.

Julie Hill, Parnell Heritage chair, said some were upset by the demolition of the pair of two-level wooden neighbouring homes at 1a Brighton Rd and 9 St Stephens Ave.

“It’s demolition by neglect,” said Hill in 2019 before the homes came down. “These two homes have played an important role in the early 20th-century history of the area, built around 1910 to 1920 so we’re very concerned. A lot of people have been in touch with us.”

Hill said people had complained directly to Parnell Heritage and the dean. One man, whose family had lived in the area for 75 years, said he was “so upset about the old buildings being allowed to decay and being demolished”.

The cathedral had built a new “golden temple”, he said, referring to the $15 million Fearon Hay Architects’ award-winning chapel, yet was engaging in “wanton destruction” of the two homes.

But Mills said the chapel money was raised before that project began and the church was unable to afford the $300,000-plus maintenance bill without leasing land on its two house sites.

Mills said neither house had been occupied for some time. Hill said fire and safety concerns resulted in them being empty for years.

Auckland Council records showed 1a Brighton Rd was a pre-1900 structure, relocated on that site in 1983. Neo-Georgian in style, the old deanery or friary was in poor condition.

A council spokesperson said neither of the buildings were listed as historic heritage places under the Auckland Unitary Plan.

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