There'll be no overnight stays in the slammer for backpackers visiting Whangarei after all.
South Island-based couple Sally and Rian Roberts, who bought the former Whangarei police station from the government in December 2010, were thinking of turning the old cell block into novelty backpacker accommodation but have decided the concept would not be a good fit with the high quality offices being developed in the buildings on the site.
The cell block is at the centre of the property, which straddles Lower Cameron and Clyde streets, with a single access off each street.
Mrs Roberts says no decision has been made about the future of the cell block but one possibility is to convert it into a document storage facility.
The former barracks on the Clyde St side of the complex were renovated last year for tenant Lands & Survey, and work began recently on the double-storeyed building on the Lower Cameron St side, which used to be the public face of the police station.
The windows have been replaced and horizontal cedar boards are being placed across part of the front of the building, softening the typically 1960s bunker-like style, and the interior is being renovated and developed as office space.
Mrs Roberts says they had wanted to maintain the integrity of the 1960s minimalist architecture but enhance the building so it was a positive addition to the CBD streetscape.
"We are really pleased with the architect's response to the brief and with the professionalism and quality of workmanship by all the contractors. The main building is not quite heritage yet, but it will be one day and we felt we had a responsibility to honour that."
Mrs Roberts says the other administrative building on the site will be developed in response to tenant interest and requirements.
All possibilities would be considered, including apartments.
The couple live in central Otago but Mrs Roberts grew up in Whangarei and retains close ties with the north.
All the work on the site has gone to Whangarei firms, including Chris Howell of Main4 Architects, DB Interiors, ChillTec, Kerr Construction and numerous sub-contractors.