Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bouncing back 2

Wellington's retail and hospitality market continues to be turbulent (or dynamic, if you're Robin Slade). There have been some more closures, but it looks like the tide has generally reversed, and many places that closed within the last few months are already opening up again in new guises. Here's a quick round up of a few recent and upcoming re-openings.

Tiles and table outside what was Cordoba Nights, and is now Roxy Vafe, at 203 Cuba StThe space that was Cordoba Nights reopened last week, though not (as I speculated) as an Asian restaurant. It's now called Roxy Café, and though the menu is a little more ambitious than the average café, it has gone for the standard informal café vibe of brick walls, warm dark colours and wooden floor. The service had a lot of glitches, but was so friendly and well meaning that I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until they get started.

Next door, Neat finally succumbed to the inevitable. The fittings got stripped out almost overnight, and the lack of "For Lease" signs is a hint that someone may already have plans for this famous old building, which has been part of Wellington's dining scene for decades. Let's hope that the next owners do justice to it.

Half a block further down Cuba, the Steinburg bakery/café, which had been going through a protracted decline, has been converted into Simply Paris, which aims to be a combination of patisserie, delicatesen and Salon de Thé. On Sunday night they were working frantically away inside, and it's probably open already. It's interesting to note attempts to break the hegemony of coffee in Wellington: the irritatingly-named t leaf T created a bit of a stir (no pun intended) when it opened in Dukes Arcade, and Roxy is also promoting their range of teas (though they haven't quite worked out how to serve it yet).

Another couple of blocks north, and right at the opposite end of the pop culture scale from Earl Grey and tiny cakes, Catalytic Attack is set to open shop in part of what was the old video arcade on the Dixon St side of the Oaks complex. To me, their range of sneakers, T's and hoodies looks very similar to that of the adjacent Area 51, though I suppose that streetwear afficionados will not only know the difference but be salivating at the prospect of brand names such as Rogue Status, Skoold in Korrectnuss and Fucking Awesome. Does it make me an old fogey to wish that someone would open a Paul Smith boutique?

Just east of here, the venue that was Stage (and Phoenix before that) has risen again as Imerst. As the excruciating spelling suggests, the emphasis is very much on trance, hard house and related genres. If this excites you, you'll probably already be aware of its convenient location just down the road from Herbal Heaven.

There are a couple of other places in the vicinity undergoing renovations, but I'll skip over those for now and note some developments near the corner of Manners and Willis streets. This area lost almost all its nightlife when Bouquet Garni and Kopi collapsed with the rest of Vim Rao's empire. The former has never had "For Lease" signs, and for a while there were workers inside knocking through walls and generally looking like it was being prepared for a relaunch. Things have been a bit quieter recently, but it's too good a building and location to stay empty for long. The "For Sale" signs in Kopi's windows have finally disappeared, and I take as a hint that somone's got plans for it. If either of these go through a rebirth as successful as Rouge's transformation into Scopa, it will be worth the wait.


At 6:34 pm, June 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom -

I heard rumours of Malthouse moving to the location of Seam - have you heard anything about this ?

I'm not sure if they were impacted by the Chew's Lane makeover - couldn't see anything obvious on the Chew's Lane website. Seems a shame as the current location is great.

At 9:09 am, June 21, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Duncan - no, I hadn't heard about that. It's amazing that the rumours have spread to Sydney already!

It's hard to tell from the Chew's Lane site what impact the changes would have on that building. Most of the renderings have been from the Victoria St side, and it's hard to tell exactly where the upper-level apartment block will go in relation to the Malthouse. However, I've just read this from the news section of the Chew's Lane site:

"... 6 x 250 sqm new office unit titles will be placed on the market for sale. These office floors will face Willis Street on the current 'Malthouse' site."

It's possible that these will be above the current two-floor Malthouse. The building used to have five stories, so building above it is not as inappropriate as it mnight seem. However, phrases like "the current 'Malthouse' site" hint that the building would be replaced entirely, which is a worry. I understood that the only old building to be demolished was the one just north of the lane on the Willis St side, and that has nowhere near the historic and townscape value of the Malthouse.

Can any readers enlighten us on the details?

At 9:00 pm, June 21, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you could ask someone at Athfields - they're the Architects for the project i think....

damn, pity about the Malthouse moving...!

At 11:43 am, June 22, 2006, Blogger Hadyn said...

On the Overall Retail Plan there is the public walkway which looks like it connects to the Malthouse entranceway. And then there are the mezzanine level.

So I think they are keeping the building's exterior but gutting the interior to make an arcade.

At 12:12 pm, June 22, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

I think that's "shared circulation" rather than public walkway. In other words, it's an entranceway to the lifts and the back of shops, rather than part of the lanes.

Unless you're looking at the Victoria St side rather than the Willis St side?

At 1:54 pm, June 22, 2006, Blogger Hadyn said...

You're right I was.


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