A character building in the heart of Auckland’s southern-most town is in line for an upgrade, possibly turning it into a multi-storey building.

The former Franklin Times building, at 1 Roulsten St, used to be a part of Eke Panuku’s Market Precinct Project to help unlock Pukekohe, but was removed due to cost pressure.

It was initially identified for a community market facility, through public funds.

According to Eke Panuku, Auckland Council’s development agency, the old building was purchased to compliment a wider transformation of Pukekohe.

However, it was ultimately decided the plan wasn’t financially feasible and now it’s been included in the Edinburgh Superblock Project, for sale and redevelopment.

The superblock goes on the market in February, for developers.

Eke Panuku priority location director Richard Davison said they planned to ask developers to achieve their vision of the town square with their money, rather than public funds.

“The Franklin Times building was used for papers and it’s a character building but it has no status in the Unitary Plan to require it to be protected,” Davison said.

“So, it rests on one’s heart, rather than in somebody’s document.

“Based on that heart feeling, we’ve been looking at ways to try and conserve, restore and redevelop it but we’ve been unable to achieve that based on our cost pressures.”

He said Eke Panuku was not going to require developers to keep it, but they would seek negotiations to “encourage them to keep it”.

“It could be anything, we just want to make that clear. But let’s not ride to the negative or to the positive but we are going to go through the market process to see what comes back.

“Lots of developers see merit in character and identity, but others might see something else, and they might see a four-storey building opportunity instead, so we’re going to have to wait and see on that one.”

Davison said their proposals for the building included using the 1 Roulston building as part of the food and beverage experience in a farmers market under council funding, similar to that in Matakana and Clevedon.

It also proposed a developer-led gastro pub restaurant or bar, while a third proposal looked to retain a portion of the existing building with a possible four to six storeys on top of it.

“The main thing we want to achieve is that the ground floor on the corner of the square is activated with, doesn’t have to be a restaurant, pub, farmers market, but something active, like an active retail frontage.”

Davison said plans for the former Franklin Times building wasn’t up to the developers, as all council land sold by Eke Panuku had different strategic priorities.

“We don’t necessarily sell anything for the highest, best purpose… and all of a sudden it’s a gas station or a drive-thru McDonald’s.

“We don’t really support those kinds of things. We like housing, progressive home ownership, things that produce bit more jobs for local people so it’s not up to the developers.

“We would negotiate with the power of our land holding and the power of their funding to agree on what we put on the land.”

The Edinburgh Superblock, which spans approximately 8704sq metres within the ring road on the southern edge of the town centre, has been envisioned to provide more spaces for pedestrians, events and the opportunity to host the Pukekohe Farmers Market.

It’s close to all key amenities and joins the town square into King St, the main retail street of the suburb.

Once completed, the superblock would be “one of the defining sites of Pukekohe Town Centre”.

According to council, the area around Pukekohe is expected to grow by 50,000 people in the next 20 years.

When completed, Pukekohe’s town centre would be a central hub for southern Auckland and northern Waikato communities.

“Pukekohe is already a wonderful and thriving town and the main thing is to ensure it continues to be a wonderful and thing town into the future.”

Davison said Pukekohe had a long story in motor racing, horse racing, mechanical stuff and a wonderful food story, being the bread basket of Auckland.

“We want to bring the market into the town square, really bring it to life, get restaurants and shops around it to be vibrant.”

By Torika Tokalau, Local Democracy Reporter

Local Democracy Reporting is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air