12 Jun 2015

St Kevin's Arcade sold to former actor

3:02 pm on 12 June 2015

The man who bought out Auckland's St Kevin's Arcade is assuring its tenants the sale doesn't spell the demise of one of the city's best loved cultural hubs.

St Kevin's Arcade, Auckland

St Kevin's Arcade, Auckland Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The heritage building was sold this week to property developer Paul Reid, who starred in Shortland Street from 2000 to 2004 as Marshall Heywood, before becoming the lead singer of Los Angeles-based band Rubicon. He now runs a small property management company, Iconicity.

The sale sparked heated discussion online by Aucklanders terrified the grips of gentrification had finally reached Karangahape Road, or worse - that some of the cafes and music venues that have stood the test of time in the arcade might be on their last legs.

St Kevin's Arcade, Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Whammy Bar, a popular bar and music venue, has been operating in the building for 11 years. Proprietor Tom Anderson said there was a lot of uncertainty when news broke of the sale.

"I think everyone was quite anxious, as everyone was in the Arcade about what the future of the building would be."

He said he had met with both the former and future landlords, and said that there was a shared desire to restore the aging site, without turning it into something else entirely.

"Both of them have said to me that's not the case, and they want to keep the vibe of the Arcade, and they want to tidy it up and hand it onto younger hands who can maybe give it the energy that it needs."

St Kevin's Arcade has stood at the heart of Karangahape Road since 1924. The heritage building has been a counter-culture focal point for many decades.

 St Kevin's Arcade, Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Mr Anderson said establishments such as the Alleluya cafe, which opened in 1994; music venues Wine Cellar and Whammy Bar; and multiple second-hand stores had made the space identifiable for many who may not feel that they fit elsewhere.

"It's a home for a lot of people that don't have a home, and that don't identify with the Ponsonby sprawl."

University student and Alleluya frequenter Ben Curran said he feared the road was on its way to becoming another Parnell or Ponsonby and may lose its organic feel.

"Gentrification is all well and good, but K Road is one of the last places where you have an evolving community, it's a place where things happen."

Community campaigner Tina Plunkett said she had lived in or around K Road for several years, and said there was an undeniable change in the air.

"I think there's an inevitability. I don't think it'll happen overnight, but we're watching the rest of K Road slowly, very very slowly change."

Ms Plunkett said the best way to protect St Kevin's was to support its tenants, and as long as they can keep paying their rent, the place is safe.

She said purely in terms of protecting heritage sites, it was good that there was interest from the developer in maintaining the building, but its essence would always remain.

"He can't change it, because it's a historic building and it's a walkway to Myers Park, and it doesn't matter how big of a property developer you are, you can't change that."

She said emotions had been running high over the sale because it came off the back of news regarding music store Real Groovy's imminent demolition, but the two issues were very separate.

Mr Anderson said while some of the shops had long-term contracts that will put them at ease for a few years to come, many with shorter-term leases would be nervous.

The new owner will reportedly take over the space in mid-August. Both Iconicity and the office of former owner Murray Rose declined to comment on the sale.