Read all about it – historical Hāwera building saved by new owner – Stuff

A building where South Taranaki stories were written for more than a century has begun a new chapter after a renovation that took half a decade.
The 109-year-old former office of the Hāwera and Normanby Star, which eventually became the Hāwera Star, the South Taranaki Star, and today’s titles, the Taranaki Star, and the Taranaki Daily News, is now home to the South Taranaki team of Excel Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Limited.
Built in 1913, the Regent St building has a feeling of the history it has helped create, Excel Group director Craig Heerdegen said.
“It has a special spirit to it, it’s got something about it.”​
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The building was closed in 2016 due to being earthquake prone and, at 715 square-metres, was too large for the Stuff team, so Excel bought it.
“We needed a big home for our growing team, and part of the allure was the space,” Heerdegen said.
Boon Architects were called in to work on the building, which needed a new roof and other repairs as well as extensive earthquake strengthening, he said.
“We spent two years trying to come up with a plan.”
Then Covid hit, and they discovered asbestos in the walls and roof, which caused more delays.
But, after a five-year wait, the company finally moved into its new HQ over Matariki weekend.
From the outside, the building with its distinctive arched windows looks much the same, albeit with a sharp new paint job, but inside it’s almost unrecognisable, even to someone who worked there in the past.
A warren of dark corridors and rooms is gone, as is the 1970s red carpet, cracked walls and freezing winter mornings.
Light floods open-plan offices with custom-built desks and meeting tables in plywood, divided by glass walls and partitions created from frames of potted plants, grown by a green-thumbed staff member.
But they have retained as many features from the building’s past as possible, Heerdegen said.
In the staffroom, there’s a large ink stain on the floor. Gnarly roof trusses are a feature in the boardroom, along with a concrete square in the floor that once supported printing equipment.
“We’ve left the roof trusses as is, they tell their own story, and all the dings and dongs of the floorboards tell of their past,” Heerdegen said.
A pair of metal-clad doors still have the old bolts attached, and there are tattered architect’s plans for 1970s-era alterations framed on a wall, along with photographs from the building’s history.
Heerdegen​ describes the reno as a passion project.
It’s now the headquarters for the 33-member finance, administration and marketing team for the Excel Group, which provides sophisticated end-to-end refrigeration, ventilation and air conditioning solutions for commercial and industrial food clients, including Fonterra, Whittakers and Tegal.
The business was founded in Hāwera in 2005 by Stephen Frowde, and Heerdegen, who had worked with him at Fonterra, joined him a few months later.
Their family of businesses around New Zealand now includes ICE Electrical and Rivet, which supplied the stainless steel used on the Len Lye building in New Plymouth.
Heerdegen declined to say how much the renovation had cost.
“We knew that it would be expensive, just not this much. But I would do it again, we have this massive building with this story now, and we’re being part of the history of the town.”
“This town has been good to us, this is part of us having a home in this community, and investing back into this community.”
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