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Marshall Building, Oamaru

When Katrina Menzies purchased the Marshall Building, she knew there was a lot of work to be done. Thanks to her determination and careful planning, this vacant and badly deteriorated building will receive a much needed makeover.

Finding a restoration project

Photo of the Marshall Building
Photo courtesy of Katrina Menzies
Looking for a new project, Katrina was keen on the idea of restoring a building. She had managed earthquake strengthening and renovations for her own home in Christchurch, and felt confident with the building process.

“Oamaru had always appealed, and when the Marshall Building came up for sale I knew we had to see it,” says Katrina.

The Marshall Building on Tees Street was originally used as retail space. But with limited foot traffic and low commercial rent in the area, Katrina had to think carefully about the viability of restoring the building to its original use.

After identifying high occupancy rates in Oamaru, Katrina decided that a change in use to tourist accommodation would be the best decision for the long-term viability of the building.

An Oamaru stone building with historical value

Photo courtesy of Waitaki District Archives.
Built in 1880, the two-storey Marshall Building was designed by Forrester and Lemon, a prominent architectural firm responsible for designed several buildings in the area. 

Tees Street and nearby Wansbeck Streets were the early commercial centre of Oamaru, being close to the port and to Oamaru’s first railway station.

Constructed from unreinforced Oamaru stone with a timber framed roof and floors, the building features an ornate façade with round headed windows, pilasters, balustrades and a curved pediment.

Although the majority of the building remained in its original state, parts of the parapet had been removed for pedestrian safety and the remaining parapet and the façade had badly deteriorated.

Developing an upgrade solution

She hired Gary Littler, a structural engineer, to carry out an initial seismic assessment (ISA). He found the building to be 15% NBS, classifying it as earthquake-prone. When it came to sourcing building professionals, Katrina asked around for recommendations, preferring to choose people with a proven track record.

Gary, with input from engineer Garth Green and stonemason John Dooley, proposed a strengthening solution for the building. They recommended inserting steel portal frames in the front wall, tying the building together with roof and floor diaphragms, and strengthening the parapet and façade corners with reinforced concrete beams and steel rods.

While strengthening to 34% NBS would mean the building was no longer earthquake-prone, the engineers recommended strengthening to 67% NBS. The project involved a major refurbishment, with minimal difference in cost to achieve 34% and 67%. Strengthening to 67% also put the building in a better long-term position. 

New Building Standard (NBS)

%NBS refers to percent of the new building standard. It’s a rating of the expected seismic performance of an existing building relative to the requirements that would apply to a new building on the same site.

Resource consent and unexpected requirements

After realising that getting a professional to complete the required resource consent application was beyond her budget, Katrina got stuck in carefully compiling her own.

It was then she found out about an expense she hadn’t budgeted – her project involved a pre-1900 building site, activating the need for an archaeological authority.

“It was a very steep learning curve,” admits Katrina.

Archaeological sites

Archaeological sites are defined as any place associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there is evidence relating to the history of NZ that can be investigated using archaeological methods.
Heritage New Zealand regulate the modification of archaeological sites. If your work affects an archaeological site you must get an authority from Heritage New Zealand before you begin.

A budget blow-out leads to funding investigation

A carefully considered budget was “blown out of the water” once engineering and archaeological advice came in. Katrina realised she’d need financial help to get the project completed. 

She went online, searching for as many potential sources of funding and assistance as possible. 

“I realised really quickly that I wasn’t eligible for any of them because I have a privately owned building,” says Katrina.

It was at this time that she first came across Heritage EQUIP. While initially her unlisted building didn’t meet the criteria, things changed once it was included in an expansion of the Heritage New Zealand listed Oamaru Historic Area. Heritage New Zealand were supportive and encouraged Katrina to pursue Heritage EQUIP funding. 

Katrina pulled out all the stops to make sure her application was a strong as possible, even hiring a cherry picker to take photos on the building elements with a low NBS. The photos also helped the stonemasons plan their upgrade work.

The investment paid off and Katrina was thrilled to be awarded $48,000 towards the strengthening work.

The value of community support

“I’m lucky that a lot of people in Oamaru are passionate about heritage buildings, and a lot of people bent over backwards to help,” says Katrina.

In a letter of support for Katrina’s Heritage EQUIP funding application, the Waitaki District Council said they were “pleased to see adaptive reuse of heritage buildings, with old buildings brought back to life through new uses.” 

And the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust supported her application, saying “the best way for heritage buildings to be protected is to ensure their ongoing use.”

Adaptive reuse

Adaptive reuse refers to changing the use of a building to something different from what it was originally designed or used for. The new use is often chosen to make the building more economically viable, or more suitable for contemporary user requirements.

Tips for other building owners

When asked what advice she’d give other building owners, Katrina had the following tips:

  • Have a “game plan”. It’s a complex process so tackle one thing at a time and be methodical.
  • The project is likely to cost more than you expect. Make sure you have a contingency fund - you’ll need it!
  • Do your research and take time to build relationships. Find out who’s passionate about heritage restoration within your community. Get them engaged by taking them on the journey with you - invite them to visit the site and get them involved in the long-term picture.
  • Curve balls happen. Engineers retire, costs increase and there may be unexpected building requirements. Take a pragmatic approach, tackle each challenge as it comes up.
  • You can’t satisfy everybody. Listen as much as you can to the experts, and go for the best outcome for the building.

A positive outcome for Oamaru

With building work about to get underway, Katrina is feeling optimistic about the future of her building and its contribution to Oamaru. 

“I hope the restoration of this building will set a benchmark for the rest of Tees Street, which is only just starting to be rejuvenated,” she says.