The Village Mews

Words by Bruce Gatward-Cook

A dream legacy for Ōākura village

“A dream come true” is how The Village Mews development in the heart of Ōākura village would be described by Paul Cunningham (senior) who bought the bare land 45 years ago.

The combined residential and commercial development on the main road is nearing completion, but the visionary who brought it to life sadly won’t get to see it finished.

Having married Pat eight years earlier, Paul and his young wife moved to the area so he could work on the Maui gas pipeline project.

When the couple bought the land, Paul Cunningham’s dream for the one-acre site on Oakura’s main street was to create something that would enhance the community, says his widow.

“For years, it was pasture for locals to graze their horses on,” she recalls. “Paul always had a clear vision, born out of love for the area, for a development that would become a hub for the local community.”

Over 5 years ago, Paul started working on design concepts with local architects Boon for a development that would be a mixture of premium residential townhouses as well as retail, hospitality and office spaces. 

Paul passed away in late 2019 so won’t get to see the finished product, but Paul’s family is confident that he would be happy with the result.  

“The Village Mews is a legacy project for Dad,” says daughter Amy who is also the project’s manager for the family. “As a local family, this development has been a big investment for us. We’ve stayed true to our values throughout, including our focus on keeping it local by using local services to create a beautiful design and a high-quality build that makes the most of the surrounding natural beauty of Ōākura.”

The Village Mews, and the Cunninghams’ Taranaki story, began when Paul came to New Zealand from Middlesbrough, England, aged just 17 while serving with the Merchant Navy. He met Pat during a stopover in Wellington and, not long after tying the knot, they moved to New Plymouth in the mid-1970s.

With Think Big projects in full swing, Paul’s entrepreneurial spirit soon led to the founding of Cunningham Construction, which Paul and Pat grew to become one of New Zealand’s leading scaffolding and rigging specialists. Cunningham Construction has been involved in all of the major petrochemical construction projects in New Zealand, both onshore and offshore, since the mid-1980s.

Of the utmost importance to Paul was his family, something that lives on through Pat.  

“All four of my children were raised in Ōākura. Two of them still live in the village, and I’m very fortunate that five of my eight grandchildren also call Ōākura home,” says Pat. 

Eldest daughter Hayley, a primary school teacher, is also closely involved with the day-to-day operations of The Village Mews.  Paul, the youngest of the four, now manages Cunningham Construction, while Sean, who lives in Perth, founded Cunningham Construction Australia in 2007 which he still runs.  

Chris Bell Construction was chosen for the build due to the company’s experience and strong reputation across both residential and commercial construction projects.  Over the past decade, many discussions (over just as many pints) were had between Chris and Paul at the Butlers Reef nutting out the finer details of The Village Mews.  

The fact that the project has run so smoothly, and remains on track for completion by mid- 2021, even despite a global pandemic, is testament to the team’s impeccable professionalism and unparalleled expertise, led by Site Manager Trent Lazarus. 

Boon Associate Director, Kyle Arnold, who led the design team on the project, says the firm tested a number of development configurations over the last five years with the Cunningham family.

“One plan had 12 residential townhouses on the site which likely would have been the financially more attractive option,” says Kyle. “However, Paul kept coming back to what would be best for the village which was always the core aspect of his vision.”

“We landed on a flexible, mixed-use development that would provide opportunities for new commercial spaces of various scales which could add to the current offering in Ōākura. The Village Mews will provide a new and exciting destination for visitors and Taranaki locals once the commercial buildings are complete.”

“Pat, supported by her daughters, has driven the project forward and the results are going to be extraordinary.  Of particular mention is the landscaping, designed in collaboration with renowned landscape architect Daniel McEwan, which will enhance the development’s aesthetic and outdoor amenity.”

Of the six modern townhouses, only three are still available and will be going to market on completion of the residential phase this April. The two commercial buildings, with internal spaces allowing for up to nine tenancies of varying sizes, is due for completion in mid-2021. 

The high spec townhouses each have internal lift access between their three floors as well as internal and external stairwells. The ground floor enjoys internal access to a secure double garage along with two bedrooms and a shared bathroom. 

The second floor comprises the master bedroom, walk in wardrobe, ensuite, a separate media room come second lounge and bathroom. Meanwhile the top floor is devoted to an open plan living and dining area. With a designer kitchen by local Glen Johns, featuring bespoke Oak cabinetry, Dekton and stone benchtops, Fisher & Paykel appliances, a walk-in scullery, and expansive sea views, it is an entertainer’s delight!

“The design for both the commercial spaces and the townhouses has been a long and well thought out process,” says Hayley. “Each townhouse has three balconies to maximise outdoor living and for owners to enjoy the stunning views out to sea or back to the Kaitake Ranges and maunga.

“We are currently looking for tenants for The Village Mews who will complement existing local businesses and further enhance Ōākura in a sustainable way.   

We’re looking for commercial or co-share office tenants, retail, hospitality and wellness propositions to transform The Village Mews into a hub for locals and tourists alike.

“The commercial spaces are designed to be flexible in terms of layout and sizing of tenancies, with the ground floor (and its expansive street frontage) lending itself well to hospitality, retail and wellness, and the first floor to office space.  Imagine how wonderful it would be to enjoy sea and mountain views from your desk, and wander down to the beach for a lunch time swim!”

With that focus on enhancing the lifestyle experience of Ōākura, it’s no wonder that the Cunninghams are particularly keen to attract businesses that will add value to the community.

“We are also really interested in businesses that are focussed on wellness for their clients such as fitness, physiotherapy and other allied health services,” says Amy.

As a further nod to living and working well, the whole development has been designed to be low maintenance for owners and tenants, says Kyle Arnold.

“Being close to the sea, we have employed durable construction materials that complement each other such as high quality cedar cladding alongside hardy plaster and brick,” he explains. “Storm water is managed onsite and there are high levels of insulation and thermal performance for both the residential and commercial units.”

The exterior landscape design features coastal natives as well as mature Nikau palms on the road frontage. 

In addition to the internal double garages for the townhouses, the development also includes ample car-parking on site for visitors and tenants of The Village Mews.  

“We were very conscious about congestion on the main street, particularly from a safety perspective around school drop-off and pick-up times, so wanted to ensure we had sufficient parking for the long-term,” says Pat.

The Village Mews is the realisation of the dream lifestyle mingling work with play for those lucky enough to call Taranaki home.  Nearing completion after so many years in the making, the Cunninghams’ wish is for others to enjoy the Ōākura lifestyle as much as they have, as owners or tenants of The Village Mews.”  

“Our family’s vision is that The Village Mews will complement Ōākura and provide a wonderful work and lifestyle environment now and for future generations,” says Pat.

To find out more about The Village Mews, pay a visit to the McDonald Real Estate office in Ōākura where agents Anjie Cook and Rachel Hooper will handle appointments to view the townhouses, while Kevin Hight and Russell Atkinson from the McDonald Real Estate commercial team can answer any questions about the office and retail spaces available at The Village Mews. ••

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