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A 6-month working bee?

Updated: Jan 8, 2020

Project Director Phil Mitchell at MCL explains

MCL is one of the most accomplished construction companies in the Hawke’s Bay with many varied commercial projects completed, over many years. So when Kiwibank were re-locating their National Operations Centre to Hastings, after the Wellington earthquake,  MCL were the obvious choice. Their job was to strengthen the old Farmers store and fit it out to a high standard. Phil Mitchell from MCL Construction takes up the story.

There was a large separate area remaining (around 1200 sqm) as an empty shell after a structural firewall was built separating it from Kiwibank next door.

Various schemes were drawn up, but with its large rectangular shape, there were few businesses big enough or with the imagination to take it on. When new owners Rob & Jenny Gill arrived in 2018 that changed. During their due diligence process, I quickly realised they were taking a very different approach to the commercial developers we usually work with.

They asked about the practicality of bringing a large co-working centre to the regions and specifically here to Hastings and this building. They were ready to invest upfront with no tenant and no customers and I remember thinking it might be worth a try. Graham Rinn, the MCL site manager for the project put it rather more bluntly, "We were discussing things a few weeks back over smoko and decided he (Rob) must have fairly large cahoonas."

Whilst I also had a few doubts, Rob & Jenny quickly put together a team to bring the idea to fruition. We had a number of planning meetings at Fat Parrot Architecture, lead by Pierre Du Toit, to design the optimal layout and work through a few critical construction issues and engineering challenges.

Director Guy Lethbridge, from local Hawke's Bay engineers Strata Group, describes the major one for us.

Giving the old Farmers Building a new lease of life presented a number of structural challenges. The way businesses utilise space now often requires not only strengthening, but the relocation of primary structure. To form the new Market Street entrance required remodelling the building and installing a new internally braced wall. While improving the layout of the building, these modifications significantly enhance the structural resilience of the building ( editor's note: read earthquake readiness).

Once the concept was agreed, Pierre’s team went to work on the detailed plans for council consent, whilst Amy Henderson from AA Design focussed on the interior design. Drawings appeared adding special features faster than we could quote them. A number of subcontractors were obviously sceptical about the super-high quality finishes being applied to a commercial building in Hastings. But when you see the results now, you understand exactly why it just had to be this way.

Autex Industries acoustic and textural finishes were applied to nearly every wall along with glass writing boards and feature light-oak veneer linings. The amenities areas are finished with floor and wall tiles plus top-quality fittings. The café kitchen joinery is luxurious with stone worktops and clever feature lighting. Feature joinery items come from MCL’s own joinery workshop in Hastings, with items as varied as the kitchen units and floating shelves.

The hexagonal HIVE theme runs through the space in both striking and subtle ways, in the feature carpet tiles, acoustic ceiling panels, the specialist planters, the island kitchen bench and even the frosted mirror for the kitchen splash-back. But we had to work carefully to contain the budget, whilst not constraining the look and feel.

With a large amount of glass partitioning all the spaces are airy and light, yet remain private with the use of discretely applied films. We would normally only see these levels of IT and security features on a secure government installation, with cameras, electronic access control and other cool features like ultra-fast, dual fibre connections and a Comms Room with blinking lights and impressive server racks.

Asked what he is most proud of Phil Mitchell has no hesitation:

Being able to bring together our regular team of subcontractors, knowing they were capable of this quality of finish. There were a number of challenges but having such a high calibre team, we kept the project moving to complete the fit-out within the overall budget. I am positive it will be an incredibly rewarding workplace for those lucky enough to be based here.

Owners Rob and Jenny would sincerely like to thank MCL, Fat Parrot Architects, Strata Group, AA Design and the many skilled sub-contractors and tradies, who worked so brilliantly together. "We are delighted with the outcome and look forward to sharing it with our customers for many years to come".

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