There is more to the hotel's wrapping, however, than entering into the spirit of Christmas. The old pub, which is being refurbished by its owner the NZ Transport Agency as part of the Victoria Park Tunnel project, will be swathed in plastic to weatherproof it while the building's roof is replaced over the next six weeks.
The Rob Roy is located at the bottom of Franklin Road and residents have seized on the wrapping – which is due to happen this weekend – as an opportunity to further enhance their community’s tradition of lighting up their properties with Christmas lights. Supported with funding from the Waitemata Local Board and manpower from the Victoria Park Tunnel project, they have a plan to make the pub glow at night like a giant Christmas beacon on 1 December when the street’s dazzling display of lights are switched on.
Lights organiser Ross Thorby says lighting the Rob Roy is an exciting addition to the Christmas lights festival which attracts thousands of people every year.
“It means the lights will in future extend the full length of Franklin Road, from Victoria Street to Ponsonby Road,” Mr Thorby says. “Of course, we cannot guarantee the wrapping every year.”
The 1886-built Rob Roy Hotel marks the original foreshore of Freemans Bay, a busy port and hub of industry before the bay was reclaimed in the early 1900s. It is one of only a handful of 19th Century waterfront pubs left in Auckland.
The NZTA’s State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker, says the unreinforced brick and mortar building sat right in the path of the tunnel that now carries northbound traffic under Victoria Park. To protect it, it was strengthened and then moved 40 metres up Franklin Road, out of the way of construction. Once the tunnel was completed, it was moved back to its original location, which is not on the roof of the tunnel.
He says the building’s interior is now being refurbished ready for tenanting next year. At the same time, a new public plaza is being constructed in front of the building, at the busy intersection of Franklin Road, Victoria Street and Union Street.
“This corner of Auckland is being upgraded as a vibrant people place with the Rob Roy Hotel – a landmark pub in Freemans Bay for more than 100 years – at its centre. We are delighted the Freemans Bay community is welcoming it back by helping us to decorate it for Christmas,” Mr Parker says.
The upper Franklin Road lights will be switched on at 8pm next Thursday (1 December), followed by the lights at the Rob Roy at 9pm.
Two of the Victoria Park tunnel’s three lanes were opened earlier this month. The northbound lanes of the Victoria Park Viaduct were closed at the same time so that work could start on reconfiguring their layout to carrying additional southbound traffic on the viaduct in the New Year. The tunnel’s third lane will open by next March when work to widen State Highway 1 through St Marys Bay is finished.
The Victoria Park Tunnel will be the first to be completed of the government’s seven roads of national significance to help improve New Zealand’s economic performance by making travel for people and freight safer and more reliable.