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City centre heritage stories

News story
Wednesday 27 Sep 2023

Auckland’s city centre has a richly storied past and with the Heritage Festival on now, we wanted to share some of them.

Heritage buildings are being given new leases of life

In a nod to both style and sustainability, some of the beautiful buildings of Queen Street (Waihorotiu Valley) have – or are in the process of – being refurbished for 21st-century needs.

HB Central has been created by stitching together two of Auckland’s oldest buildings, including the original home of Hallensteins.

Nowadays, HB Central has been transformed into a 5 Green Star-rated, mixed-use building. It’s fully tenanted with a range of businesses, including Nike and Paname Social, which is on Lorne Street.

Explore HB Central’s gorgeous blend of heritage features with a modern twist by heading to Paname Social which is taking part in Late Night Art on 12 October by hosting A Taste of Art Battle which will see artists go head-to-head in a competition where the audience is the judge.

HB Central, Paname Social.

Once upon a time, 131 Queen Street was Milne and Choyce Ltd, the first department store in Auckland. Today, its marble façade welcomes people into another first – the Hypercinema pop-up. It’s the world’s first live AI experience, where the audience becomes the subject of the stories and images on screen. Hypercinema is running until the end of October.

Hypercinema with creators Dr Miles Gregory (L) and Tarver Graham (R)

The Strand Arcade has been on Queen Street for over a century. A striking example of Edwardian architecture, it’s witnessed everything from over 90 Farmers Parades to Bon Jovi (and their hordes of fans).  It’s also one of the latest locations to take part in our Vacant Spaces Initiative – with its rich history being the inspiration for the window designs. Its rich history was the inspiration for the decals created for its involvement. They’ve been put onto the windows of their vacant retail spaces with window frontage, adding further colour to the environment.

It’s also hosting Good News For You, - a presentation of artworks from five artists which will be in place throughout ArtWeek in the City including extended opening hours for Late Night Art.

We’re thrilled that the St James Theatre is now set for restoration with recent funding announcements and the aim for it to be completed by its centennial celebration in 2028. It’s a vital part of music and city centre history, with the likes of Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, and The Strokes all having graced its stage.

While hospitality icons Josh and Helen Emett – of Onslow fame – are busily renovating the bottom floor of the historic Auckland Law Society Chambers ahead of their latest opening in the city centre, Gilt Brasserie. They’ll be serving simple, unfussy European fare from 18 October.

Built in 1861, 9 – 11 Durham Lane East is the oldest commercial building in the city centre. Formerly The Bluestone Room, it’s found a new lease of life as an events space called Brad’s Warehouse. With its exposed Kauri beams, wood panelling and volcanic stonewalls, it’s becoming a coveted space.

Businesses that have called Queen Street home for generations:

As Auckland’s ‘Golden Mile’, Queen Street is one of the most famous streets in the country and there’s been businesses who have called it home for generations.

Since opening as a drapers and millinery store in 1800, Smith & Caughey’s has established itself as one of New Zealand’s best-loved department stores. A true icon of Queen Street, it’s the place to go when you’re looking for a luxurious gift – or to treat yourself.

The flagship Walker and Hall store has also been on Queen Street (in various locations) since it was established in 1899.

Vinka Design has been bringing brides dreams to life for over 50 years with their glamourous custom dresses. It was established by Vinka Lucas, who received a NZOM for her services to the fashion industry and design and remains in the family today, with her daughter Anita Turner managing and acting as the Creative Director since 2009.

Music lovers have been flocking to Marbecks in Queens Arcade since 1934. From CDs to vinyl across a myriad of genres, their helpful staff can help you find what you’re looking for.

Marbecks (internal)

Take a self-guided walk back in time

There’s fantastic self-guided walks throughout the heart of the city that offer the opportunity to explore the city centre’s history in a lunch break.

The Te Wai Horotiu Turama – Queen Street Walking Tour invites people to revisit and reimagine the Wai Horotiu Valley and te ao Māori history through public artworks created by icons of Māori art and design. More information about this self-guided walk can be found here.

Te Wai Horotiu