Development syndicate chair Craig Dennis in the Betts Apartments courtyard. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Apartment projects changing housing landscape

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Proponents of new multimillion-dollar apartment projects in Nelson say they are helping spur a change in perception about inner city living and how it might solve some of the region’s housing issues.

Betts Apartments on Nile St have just opened, creating a model that Nelson City Council says could form the basis of more developments like it. The three-and-a-half-year project saw a council-owned carpark sold and turned into a 17-apartment complex ranging from $800,000 to $1.8 million.

“It also opens up scope to use other models which enable council to leverage different housing choices in the city centre, without council actually being the developer,” says council city development team leader Lisa Gibellini.

She says the project, which was fast tracked under the previous government’s Special Housing Area scheme, is seen as an essential part of enabling greater inner-city living of different types, price points and title options.

“Council is therefore keen to further explore models such as these where we add value to the process,” Lisa says.

However, chair of the company behind the Betts Apartments, Craig Dennis, says the issue is finding land that can make such project viable.

He says while the Betts project represents the upper tier of buyers, he knows there is strong demand for “mid-range” buyers – between $650,000 and $800,000.

“But the land is not there at a price that you can develop and sell in that price range.

It also makes it harder that the SHA is no longer around, he says.

“Had we had to go through consenting, I suspect we would never have tackled it as the risk of Environment Court is too great.”

He says council does have land that could be redeveloped and also there are a number of commercial properties in town that could be repurposed into residential dwellings.

We have to intensify. This is what is going to help deliver some of that. It’s part of the solution.”

As the new owners of Betts Apartments await the delivery of their keys, another, even larger project, is getting underway. A new apartment block on the Ocean Lodge site in Tahunanui has just started earthworks on the 37-unit complex, which comes complete with pool, spa and gym.

The $40 million project has been in the works for several years; however, its owner Tony Vining says it should now be complete by September 2021.

“It will be fantastic for Tahuna. We have big plans for the area, and this will be the catalyst for that.”

That includes potentially developing a new metro-style supermarket to go with the apartments, ranging from mid $500,000s to $2 million for the penthouses.

Tony says that the Ocean Lodge project is another example of Nelsonians getting to grips with apartment living.

“We can’t keep sprawling out into the wop wops.”

Lisa Gibellini of council says other apartment developments underway also have affordability requirements, such as 71 Haven Rd. Of the 31 apartments in this complex, 40 per cent will be within or below the REINZ-calculated nominal house price of $525,000 to $595,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.

“People are changing their perceptions about inner-city living and apartment living in general in Nelson,” says Lisa.