Auckland lunchtime dining institution Food Alley is among several properties being converted into a massive office and retail development by one of Singapore’s richest families.
Magnate Michael Kum, the son of Singaporean street Hawkers and worth SG$930 million according to Forbes, is behind M&L Auckland Central, which owns 9-11 Albert Street, where Food Alley is located.
Kum and his family, including eldest daughter Joycelyn, run several businesses in their global empire M&L Hospitality. In New Zealand, this includes the Auckland and Christchurch Hilton hotels.
While hoteliers were targeted for the collection of buildings in M&L Auckland’s portfolio, resource consents viewed by BusinessDesk show the company plans to build one of Auckland’s biggest office towers.
A construction firm is expected to be appointed by the end of March and demolition on parts of the site will start in the June quarter.
Along with the Food Alley building, M&L Auckland owns the Yates Building, Hopkins Building and Berry Building which sit on Albert Street, as well as 9 Wolfe Street, known as Challenge House. The properties were purchased in 2017 and 2018.
Resource consents show the company wants to amalgamate the sites into one, yet-to-be-named development.
The combined property sits over 4,371 square-metres and will include a 31-storey office tower flanked by a seven-level building, which connects to the old Challenge House through an enclosed pedestrian bridge over Wolfe Lane, that connects Albert Street with Federal Street.
At 159 metres, the tower will be taller than the nearby ANZ Centre and Metropolis apartments, but shorter than Precinct Properties’ PwC Tower at Commercial Bay.
The documents lodged for the owners request consent on a non-notified basis, meaning they don’t want public input on the plan. The application is dated November 2019.
While M&L Auckland has 1,180 sqm available in retail leases, its proximity to Commercial Bay and Queen Street means it probably won’t house big brands.
“Separation from the identified core retail area of the city and the substance and configuration of many established buildings makes it unlikely that Federal Street will, in the short term at least, become a conventional retail street,” its resource consent application said.
Part of the Yates Building will be demolished as part of the project, but the application said it will not “detract from its heritage values.” The building will be given a seismic upgrade as part of the project. The historic Berry Building will also be restored, the company said.
Heritage consultant Allan Matson, who in 2012 took a fight to save the Yates Building from demolition to the Environment Court, said he will wait to see if the council decides to hear public submissions before deciding whether to formally object.
He told BusinessDesk the developers could have achieved what they wanted to “in a way which doesn’t do away with some useful heritage fabric.”
For example, intricate parapet designs on the Berry building didn’t need to be removed, Matson said.
M&L Auckland is registered in the British Virgin Islands and directed by Kum, his wife Lynda Ong and daughter Jocelyn Kum.
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