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Willis Bond to buy Farmers

23 December 2013. Source: Fairfax NZ News
Farmers Cuba picture

The Farmers department store building in Cuba Mall has been bought by the Willis Bond property development company.

Managing director Mark McGuinness said the company wanted to redevelop the property although this was subject to negotiations with Farmers, which held a long-term lease on the quake-risk building.

It is understood Farmers has six years to run on the lease and a further right of renewal. Willis Bond also owns the neighbouring old Deka store on the corner of Cuba and Dixon streets.

Both properties were put up for sale by receiver David Ruscoe, of Grant Thornton, after the collapse of Terry Serepisos's Wellington property empire two years ago.

The sale went unconditional after Farmers waived its right to buy the 1914-vintage heritage-listed building.

Farmers closed the department store after the magnitude 6.2 earthquake on August 16 and reopened it nearly six weeks later after engineers assessed it as being fit to occupy.

It is understood Willis Bond paid $13 million for the Farmers building and another $10m for the Deka property.

The combined price for the two properties is well shy of the $59m borrowed on them by Mr Serepisos's Century City Holdings.

Mortgages were advanced by the Bank of Scotland and South Canterbury Finance.

Serepisos, who was bankrupted in September 2011 with debts of about $200m, had planned a $60m 14-storey retail, office and residential redevelopment of the two properties which together stand on almost one hectare of land.

Willis Bond was already planning a redevelopment of the 4000sqm Deka property which has frontages on Cuba Mall, Dixon and Victoria streets.

The site is understood to have been shortlisted for a proposed new combined central Wellington campus for WelTec and Whitireia polytechnics.