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Former drape factory opens curtains in suburban Auckland


Former drape factory opens curtains with multi-million dollar, multi-purpose development in suburban Auckland

One of Auckland’s city fringe suburbs is about to get a $6-million make-over from a group of multi-talented first-time and local developers with a vision to make the space everything a mall isn’t.

The precinct, called simply Morningside and pegged to officially open mid-November, has achieved 100 per cent occupancy via a hand-picked selection of 11 independent businesses that include a local tavern, cider bar, dessert bar, community-minded cafe, various food hotspots, media and tech businesses, a bridal atelier and a sprawling 450-sqm glasshouse events space lined with olives and 8-metre high oak trees growing within it.

Owned by Common Projects Ltd, it is the brainchild of designers Pip and Nat Cheshire, Britomart Hospitality Group’s Rod Ballenden and Nick McCaw alongside investors Jeremy Priddy, Blair Wolfgram & Paul Gibbard.

Using their collective nous in hospitality and retail management as well as creating and engineering beautiful multi-use spaces and brilliant businesses, the team have all played a role in shaping some of Auckland’s most frequented spaces and places and are hoping to do the same with the Morningside site.

“We wanted to curate and collide just enough diversity and density of food, drink, garden and good humans to make a wonder-filled place, near your place. No more, no less,” says co-owner Nat Cheshire.

Nat explains that the precinct is weighted on the ‘why’, towards re-programming neighbourhoods and the future of culture rather than the ‘what’ of materials, looks and so on. He explains that the space has worked with the robust, industrial bones of the area and site, and that it was important that the space was more community and less designer in the traditional ‘Cheshire’ sense.

“Morningside’s time has come. The place will emerge and change in a way that is sustainable, so our vision is not so much an ideal finished state, but a collective that evolves with the changing landscape.”

With community front of mind, the group cites local for-good business Crave café as ‘proof of concept’, with big weeks and enormous queues in weekends. Rather than compete with them, they were first on the list to grow their presence with a second café outpost ‘KIND’ taking the corner occupancy.

“The tenant mix has been deliberate. Almost everyone said yes. They could see through the leaky sheds but there was trust too that we each had our own track records, that our reputations were on the line, and that we weren’t in it for a quick buck, but rather the excitement of making a better city, directly and together,” says development manager Rod Ballenden.

The next sign-up was Miann, responsible for doling out some of the most delicious pastries Auckland has seen, and from here the concept was sold through to food alley tenants Electric Chicken (formerly a pop up in Mercury Plaza), Bo’s Dumplings (spawn of Top Café off K’ Rd) and a local cider maker who will produce ‘Morningcider’ for punters alongside a brick-clad 260sqm family tavern that anchors the precinct.

The result is a critical mass of deliciousness that can service a capacity inside and out of 700 – but not so much that you feel you have to change out of your leggings or put your town shoes on.

At the eastern end is an upstairs collective of businesses, including a bridal atelier from Juliette Hogan, media group The Spinoff and tech plays Parkable and Translate Digital that enjoy sprawling open plan spaces with shared amenities.

“Nobody is fancy. They’re just really, really good,” says Nat.

Perhaps the most striking of the spaces is the 450sqm glasshouse, which the group hopes will be enjoyed by community ventures and gatherings, market days and celebrations. With a 12-metre high ceiling, the all-weather venue has a Mediterranean feel with space for 400 standing or 250 seated.

Four kilometres south-west of the city centre, the suburb "Morningside" comes from a farm estate that was subdivided in 1865 for housing lots. Made NZ-famous by local animated TV show Bro'Town, Morningside resides in a landlocked light industrial zone that flanks a functional train station, Eden Park and a sea of villas.

Working closely with this local amenity has been core to the development. The team has worked collaboratively with Auckland Council to realise its Unitary Plan goals of intelligent intensification, and as a result the space boasts no carparks to offer more spaces for people, drawing upon the nearby Morningside train station and bay-sharing app Parkable (also a tenant) to service the area and tenants.

“We didn’t even have to argue the point,” says Rod.

A complete transformation of what was once an old drapes factory on McDonald Street, Morningside is set to open its curtains on November 19.

-ENDS-

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