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The Grosvenor, Timaru

A large masonry-built hotel with a heavy roof posed challenges for the owner, their engineers, and for heritage experts. Ping Lim and his project team are ready to respond.

The Grosvenor among the first professional advice grants

The Grosvenor Hotel has been a much-loved feature of the streetscape of Timaru for 104 years. During this time, it earned the moniker ‘the Grand Old Lady of the South’. Owners Polladio Holding Limited are pleased to have been awarded a Heritage EQUIP Professional Advice grant. The grant was one of the first five Heritage EQUIP Professional Advice Grants awarded. The owners will use the $29,100 to secure structural design from engineers Davis Ogilvie, a peer review from Batchelar McDougall Consulting and consent processing assistance from Avanzar Consulting.

Historic hotel gains a new life

Grosvenor Hotel, Timaru. Ref: 1/2-006876-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
The Grosvenor Hotel was constructed in 1915. It replaced a previous hotel with the same name which had occupied the site since 1875. Both hotels have made unique contributions to the history of Timaru. The Canterbury Rugby Football Union (CRFU) was established in the basement if the original building in 1879. The Grosvenor there today hosted Queen Elizabeth during a royal visit in 1954 and again in 1970s. Since 1983 the hotel has been recognised by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga as a Category II historic place.

When Polladio Holdings Limited bought the building in 2005, it was looking tired and somewhat neglected. The new owners were keen to uncover the original brickwork, kauri and rimu flooring and panelling. Ping Lim from Polladio Holdings Limited says he likes ‘the creaking old floorboards, uneven wall lining, and a different layout for every room’. He saw the interior as a blank canvas – literally. In the past 14 years, the Grosvenor has become home to a substantial art collection that includes works by eminent New Zealand artists Bill Hammond, Peter Robinson, Hannah Kidd, Lonnie Hutchinson, Jim Cooper and Ian Scott. International artists like Melly Trochez and Leo Eguiarte also feature throughout the hotel, and its popular restaurant and bar.

Structural challenges

Seismic assessments already completed for the building highlighted the challenges posed by the sandstone and brick façade. The exterior walls need stronger resistance to earthquake face loads and the parapets require tying into the roof structure. These are common challenges for masonry buildings.

Another challenge identified is the weight of the Marseille tile roof. Lim half-jokingly notes that the tile choice back in the day was likely because of locals referring to Timaru as "the Riviera of the South". He has engaged with Heritage New Zealand early and often to ensure he and his structural engineers have the best guidance on keeping heritage to the fore during design. For their part, Heritage New Zealand have been happy to provide high-level advice as it will help when it comes to consents for the eventual upgrade work.

Lim also operates the hotel business and he plans to keep the building open during most of the upgrade work. This will retain much of the building’s income and helps with overall project viability.


Lim says that the Grosvenor is ‘all about bringing people together’. This was critical in establishing the upgrade project team, and he hopes that the upgrade will both remind locals about their shared history and meet their town’s changing needs. Once the upgrade is complete Lim’s plan is to increase occupancy at that the Grosvenor and have the building’s past come alive for visitors to Timaru and locals alike.