City living moves to the country

04 March, 2018

Big city living is moving to the country. Apartment buildings, a long-time feature in metropolitan areas around the world and only recently popping up in Hamilton, are on their way to Waikato's service towns.

Cambridge is at the sharp end of growth in the Waikato. The St Kilda development feeds the quarter-acre dream. The Lakewood development overlooking Lake Te Koo Utu fulfils the town's commercial and residential home aspirations.

And construction will start in July on the latest development: a high-rise six-apartment block on Alpha Street in Cambridge's CBD.

Alpha Street Developments spokeswoman Olivia Fraser said the town is taking a big step forward.

"For a provincial town, it's new," Fraser said. "Land is at a premium. Ideally, it's a way people should go. It's secure, it's safe, it's sociable."

Fraser grew up in Tamahere and after a few years living abroad, she moved back.

"As soon as I got here, I loved it. There is a real sense of community and there are some amazing shops and some great restaurants and I never would have thought there would be that standard of cafes and restaurants in Cambridge," she said.

There are six apartment units in her Alpha Street block. Prices range from $750,000 to $950,000. 

The building is designed to fit Cambridge's heritage look and it has retail space on the bottom floor, as well as car-parking for residents.

"We want to make a safe, warm, luxurious place for people to live and to enjoy the community," Fraser said.

Waikato University environmental planning Professor Iain White said the Cambridge market is developing innovative living options as house prices soar.

"There is not much choice, so it's good. It allows people to make different housing choices at different stages of their lives," White said.

Apartments and duplexes have been cropping up around the country, White said. They succeed in creating more living space on each square meter of land and drive innovation in the retail area.

"And it's good that people are living within walking distance of city centres. It generates a lot of income for the regional economy. They tend to spend a lot of money there - they don't need to drive around looking for car-parking places and it also fuels more investment in the CBD."

Apartments and duplex townhouses cater to a broad spectrum of the market. Statistics New Zealand projects that by 2030, those aged 65 and older will comprise about 25 per cent of the total population. In the same period, birth rates are projected to decline. As a result, more people will be looking for smaller homes to live in.

"Perhaps it's home for someone who wants to be close to the centre of town or someone downsizing and doesn't want the maintenance."

Cambridge Real Estate consultant Sacha Webb, who is marketing the Alpha Street apartments, said the units appeal to a hungry market and will change the face of Cambridge.

"Cambridge is seen as this beautiful picturesque place and now we are getting the accommodation to go with that," Webb said.

Lodge City Rentals managing director David Kneebone agrees. His Hamilton-based company is fielding interested parties from Auckland, and more are asking to rent in Cambridge.

"A lot of people coming into Hamilton are asking for Cambridge. I can't speak for the Cambridge market, but I'm imagining it's a real tight squeeze there as well. Everybody wants to live in Cambridge at the moment."

Waipa District Mayor Jim Mylchreest​ said Cambridge is reaping the rewards of the Waikato Expressway, which has removed heavy vehicles from the town and makes the commute to Hamilton easier. He expects, in time, to see similar developments elsewhere.

"I think it is going to happen in Te Awamutu and Morrinsville. The fact is, people are resisting the complications of living in Auckland with all those travel and traffic issues. Smaller communities are, obviously, becoming more attractive," Mylchreest said. 

 - Stuff

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