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Wellington City Council program helps retailers restore historic buildings

Wellington fashion designer and retailer Duncan McLean.

A Wellington City Council program is helping retailers to restore historic buildings in which they are trading.

The council’s Built Heritage Incentive Fund assists owners of heritage buildings to perform conservation and seismic strengthening work in order to ensure financial support is available to ensure the success of those efforts.

One of the retail beneficiaries of the fund is clothing designer Duncan McLean, owner of a 122-year-old building in central Newtown. He has been granted NZ$14,000 to be put towards an earthquake-strengthening design for the shop.

The structure was declared earthquake-prone in 2010, prompting the owner to seek financial support for renovation work, eventually turning to council senior heritage advisor Eva Forster-Garbutt about the Built Heritage Incentive Fund.

McLean’s two-storey Victorian shop and residence was built in 1898, the same year as the neighbouring Castle’s Chemist, and is within the Newtown Shopping Centre Heritage Area.

His shop is now at the back of his property, accessible from Green Street, and the front area hosts a community of small businesses – Swell Gallery, Sweet Janes, and Health and Healing Massage.

Over the years, Duncan has had his Newtown shop repiled, rewired, reroofed, repainted, and replumbed, but when the building was ‘yellow stickered’ after being declared earthquake-prone in 2010, he knew he had a challenge on his hands.

“It’s like carrying a monkey around on your back – you have no idea what you’re going to be up for financially.”

Work on the property is now expected to be complete by 2025.

“We are really keen to see people get started with the strengthening of their heritage buildings, beginning with the detailed seismic assessments and the detailed design,” said Forster-Garbutt. “It is a great feeling when we can provide assistance by helping owners on this path.”

The council’s most recent funding round for the initiative closes on October 13.

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