ATC: Report, did you remember the milk? Acknowledge.
October 14, 2020 1:39 PM   Subscribe

The old air traffic control tower for WLG is for sale. And it is zoned as a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom residential property complete with street number and letter box. And of course the Air Traffic Control deck with (obviously) quite a view of the runway.

The current buyer enquiry price is $890k NZD (about $590k USD) though it is expected to go higher for what is quite possibly the only residential ATC tower in the world and greatest (non-aircraft) flight simulator / air traffic simulator accessory ever. Google Maps link of the tower, which apparently is called Arnold by the neighbors. Asbestos removal and earthquake strengthening are the responsibility of the new owner before you put your bid in.
posted by inflatablekiwi (27 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
WANT
posted by mazola at 1:50 PM on October 14 [2 favorites]


Maybe you'd get used to the noise. And maybe you wouldn't.
posted by tommasz at 2:01 PM on October 14 [3 favorites]


I could do a pretty nice rebuild of that; there's a decent amount of land and the structure looks reasonably simple, although I'd probably have to effectively demolish the lower structure and replace it (or else punch a hell of a lot of holes and then reinforce the bejeezus out of it), but anyone who gets rid of the control deck should be imprisoned. Could probably arrange the interior to let the public go up and check it out if they want (during the daytime, that level is mine at night).

...hey, NZ, gimme a ring yeah? Let's work something out. C'mon, you know those developer lads are just gonna knock the whole thing down and put some shitboxes up.
posted by aramaic at 2:12 PM on October 14 [2 favorites]


I mean, maybe they should keep it as a backup, because the picture of the new control tower in that first link makes it look like it will be tipping over momentarily.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:20 PM on October 14 [11 favorites]


That would be really great. I would love to live in a place that used to be that or a lighthouse tower or a houseboat or a water tank or even a school. Thanks for the post!
posted by Bella Donna at 2:22 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


Maybe you'd get used to the noise. And maybe you wouldn't.

It's tolerable; with double-glazing you don't really notice the noise [source: visiting my friend's house on the same street]. WLG runway is really short so we don't get any large planes.
posted by Pink Frost at 2:27 PM on October 14 [16 favorites]


I hope this building finds someone who loves it and ends up having a long delightful life living in it.
posted by Hicksu at 2:30 PM on October 14 [6 favorites]


I kind of see a private detective living out of that and having weekly adventures.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:33 PM on October 14 [16 favorites]


having weekly adventures.

...kinda like Speedway Squad, except small airplanes and lots of aerial chases through narrow mountain passes.
...or possibly like Beachcombers, but with ... I dunno ... rival crop-dusting pilots?

Shit, now I want it even more. Make a whole fake museum to a nonexistent late-60s/early-1970s TV show.
posted by aramaic at 2:51 PM on October 14 [11 favorites]


a lighthouse tower or a houseboat

Both. A bit pricey though, and at this moment already sold subject to conditions.
posted by Stoneshop at 2:54 PM on October 14 [6 favorites]


[homer] NZD895K? And it only controls aircraft? [/homer]
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:58 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


I could see a music producer repurposing that control desk.

...okay, I could see myself repurposing that desk as a music studio.
posted by Foosnark at 3:16 PM on October 14 [5 favorites]


the picture of the new control tower in that first link makes it look like it will be tipping over momentarily.

To be fair the Wellington Hazard map shows there is a fair chance of a tsunami taking them both out...if the ground shaking and liquification doesn't.... I mean its happened before...
posted by inflatablekiwi at 3:43 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


...okay, I could see myself repurposing that desk as a music studio.

I suspect that those racks will turn out to be 17" or 50cm or something.
posted by rhizome at 3:49 PM on October 14 [3 favorites]


I kind of see a private detective living out of that and having weekly adventures.

Maybe NZ's own Terry Teo grown up? He can fly his microlight from the airport to find the last Moa.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:00 PM on October 14


But how's the heating and insulation?
posted by ShooBoo at 4:10 PM on October 14


Maybe you'd get used to the noise. And maybe you wouldn't.

I worked in a former airport terminal right on top of an active airport catering to private planes and jets. You do not hear the noise save for the few military jets.

Bringing it up to code to deal with asbestos and earthquake regulations are incredibly expensive. This is a tear down.
posted by geoff. at 4:21 PM on October 14 [3 favorites]


I can't think of a better testament to New Zealand's sense of security and trust in its people.

Such a thing is unimaginable in the US. After 9/11 the FAA started demanding even tiny little municipal airports beef up security with absurd 12 foot fences, automated gates. An enormous amount of money was wasted adding unneeded security to 3000 foot cracked asphalt strips with Grandpa flying his Cub out of it once a month.

But the worst thing was the FAA trying to shut down a bunch of live-on-the-airport communities operating under so-called through the fence rules. Since the 40s it's been possible to buy a home where your garage is a hangar that lets you taxi your airplane right onto the runway; I live just a few miles from one. Post-9/11 the government freaked out about this potential security risk and it was a huge legal battle for years. Probably still is.

But in New Zealand you can buy not just a home at an active airport. But at the commercial airport for the nation's capital. Oh and it's an elevated platform with a 360 degree view designed for visibility.
posted by Nelson at 5:11 PM on October 14 [5 favorites]


That’s really great and I hope it finds a loving and very handy new owner, but I have to echo jacquilynne that if the new tower were visible from there it would cause me extreme anxiety.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:22 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


After 9/11 the FAA started demanding even tiny little municipal airports beef up security with absurd 12 foot fences, automated gates.

I don't know about that, again I worked at an airport post-9/11 where presidents even landed. At least one ex-president landed while I worked there in a non-airport related office on a terminal. Bill Clinton played with a firefighter's dog for awhile before going to a fundraiser. The only thing separating the office from the airport was a door to the runway. When I say door I mean literally it was a door with an emergency fire handle on it. It had to not be blocked as it was a fire escape. At one time I think an executive landed then walked right into the office from it. Another, during a holiday party someone got drunk and ran out onto the runway where they were taken down by security and charged with a federal crime.

Edit: I should add there was no security to get into the office. No gates, just park, walk into the office. You could have in theory walked from the receptionist to the runway.
posted by geoff. at 5:31 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


This is a tear down.

Possibly, but not necessarily.

For one thing, you'll need to remove the asbestos prior to demolition unless the NZ authorities are insane, so that's a cost either way, and the asbestos contractors I've used leave the structure in the same condition whether or not it's going to be subsequently demolished.

That leaves seismic reinforcing as the key difference; if you've got to underpin the building against liquefaction you're probably hosed. If, however, it's just a matter of reinforcing then you can often get that done for 10-20% of building replacement cost (mind, that's the cost of replacing the exact same building, not the cost of just putting up any ol' building so YMMV vs. shitbox apartments).

...so, if the seismic reinforcing isn't a nightmare, IMHO you may as well save the structure and garner the fame thereby.

If it is a nightmare then you've got one thing going for you -- the ATC deck looks to be framed, not poured, so you can save the ATC deck by lifting it off intact, setting it down elsewhere on the plot (seems to be enough room), then building a replacement tower (same size, but this time steel) in the same location and plopping the ATC deck back on top when you're done.

Plus, you could almost certainly get local groups onside to "save" the tower, and let them run the pressure campaign while you stand there looking magnanimous and saying "hey, I just wanna do the right thing" a lot and maybe talk earnestly about the value of "saving a local landmark". As long as you save the ATC deck and replace it atop a new visually-similar structure of the exact same height, you could probably call it "saving" the landmark.
posted by aramaic at 5:46 PM on October 14 [7 favorites]


Another, during a holiday party someone got drunk and ran out onto the runway where they were taken down by security and charged with a federal crime.

Also, apologies for the second post, but ouch! Just, owwww. Ugh, it makes my knees and elbows ache like I just got scraped across the tarmac by some Feds.

[Totally justified, can't have people endangering aircraft like that but still. Ouch.]
posted by aramaic at 7:11 PM on October 14


Yes, it is situated within a kilometer or two from THE main fault line - just waiting for the big one
posted by mbo at 8:23 PM on October 14


just waiting for the big one

To quote the great Australian Poet Arnold Wordsworth from his seminal work Lines Composed About Half-way Across the Pyrmont Bridge, and which reflects my perspective on the Tower and its risk exposure to earthquakes.
Earth has not anything to show more fair,
Soft would he be of swede, a quid unfull,
Who would willingly forgo such a view,
For lo, the sparrow breaketh of his wind
And this entire joint looks not too foul,
Stand back, for when she goes, she bloody goes.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:45 AM on October 15 [3 favorites]


(and bonus - as read by Sam Neill)
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:02 AM on October 15 [2 favorites]


same size, but this time steel

Is it typical in NZ to have steel paneling over wood frame? Here a building that looked like that would be steel frame.

Also it looks like the stair well (with the different cladding and the seam in the foundation) is possibly a later addition or renovation. I wonder if they enclosed a formerly external staircase at some point. Anyone seen any 1960s pictures of the tower?
posted by Mitheral at 11:55 AM on October 15


Anyone seen any 1960s pictures of the tower?

Had a quick look and couldn't find any, but NZ has a fairly decent National Archives and doing a quick search seems like you'd likely be able to pull the Ministry of Works, Wellington District Office,, maps and plans, and surveyor field books for the Wellington ATC 1963-1973. Looks like you'd be able to get original wiring diagrams, rack layout guides and a lot of other things for the Tower. They haven't digitized those records yet unfortunately or I'd have linked them directly.

You know....just in case you are considering buying it and renovating :-)
posted by inflatablekiwi at 12:58 PM on October 15 [2 favorites]


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