Historic building to go


Owners of the historic Trathen building on Trafalgar St are planning to demolish it after it received just a six per cent earthquake rating.

If consent is granted, a new $2.3 million two-storey building will replace it.

The proposed new two storey building features two separate upper-level restaurant cafés with outdoor dining areas that extend out over the footpath below. It also has solar panels that double as shade to the upstairs areas while powering the building’s lift and escalator.

“The reality is that building simply can’t remain in its current form,” Trathen Properties CEO Michelle Trathen says.

“We are very proud of our Nelson heritage and we have poured heart and soul into trying to come up with the best solution, not only for us but for the future of our home town.”

The upper two levels of the existing Trathen building have not been tenanted for 20 years because there’s little demand for upper level inner city office space.

The new building is expected to cost $2.38m to construct. Retaining the façade of the existing building would require structures to be driven 17 metres below ground and cost more than $1 million without fully mitigating the risk of causing injury or death in an earthquake. It would also prevent the Trathens being able to create the modern spaces and outdoor dining areas that they think the city needs.

“We have directed our architect to recycle any materials of the original building that can be salvaged and used in the design of the new building to create a visual connection to the history of the site.”

A more cost effective option for the Trathens would be to build a single storey building, akin to other retail development around the inner city.

“We haven’t gone for the cheapest or easiest option – we’ve gone for the best option. Creating upstairs activity brings another layer of life to the street, bringing vitality into the heart of our city.

“There is a cultural trend that is happening throughout the world; people are coming into the city not just to shop but to meet and eat and be entertained.”

The same forward thinking was applied back in 1920 when the family constructed the existing building which served as home to the Trathen drapery and clothing store up until its closure in 1988.

“There is a symmetry to what we want to do today. Ben Trathen senior, who built the building and started the Trathen business, would approve of the concept of the new development for this site. We wish to further enhance his progressive vision for Nelson – and continue to support and be instrumental in raising the profile of Trafalgar St and the CBD to benefit current and future Nelson generations.”

The new building will prominently feature the Trathen name in the same way the existing one does.