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Vic project a perfect match for local property expert

Flagstaff Team

As a development specialist, Mark Sigglekow was unfazed by the challenge of bringing the Victoria Theatre back to life. He tells Helen Vause about his love of old buildings – and why Devonport is his ideal location.

In the right spot… Mark Sigglekow hasn’t let three heart attacks stop him enjoying a life of buildings, boating and much more

When you have a lovely old cinema all locked up and waiting to be rescued, together with a seasoned project manager and movie buff living just a stone’s throw away, it’s not hard to imagine what might happen next.

Enter Mark Sigglekow, a leading hand in bringing Devonport’s Victoria Theatre back to life and making sure the grand old girl keeps on pumping.

Sigglekow, who is co-chair of the Victoria Theatre Trust, is a structural engineer, project manager and all-round property man, with decades of experience in pulling together large-scale developments all over the country and numerous significant buildings closer to home.

His was the skill set missing from the group already working to revive the theatre when he joined them back in 2009, keen to add his know-how to the mix.

More than a decade since the Vic reopened, The Flagstaff caught up with Sigglekow, at home in Buchanan St, basking in the retirement he laughingly admits seems to leave him with very little spare time at all, thus far. Action, and lots of it, is his version of a quieter life.

He’s just home, energised from an “amazing” sea voyage from Bluff to the Subantarctic islands.

It was his second trip, but he was no less awed by the wildlife, and the exciting forays by inflatable boat to see rare birds up close. With his bags barely unpacked, he has still got yachting on his mind and is preparing to join the rest of the race fleet from Devonport Yacht Club for a few full-on days on the Hauraki Gulf. It’s the annual three-handed rally, so Sigglekow and the crew on his 40-year-old Townson will be racing to Coromandel, then Kawau and home again.

His boat, life on the water, and the camaraderie of the club are high priorities.

In fact, when Skigglekow and his family moved to Devonport from Takapuna, the pretty Buchanan St bungalow seemed the perfect spot.

“It’s about an equal distance from the Vic, the club and the ferry. Perfect for my life,” he laughs. It’s also not far from the site of the Pentlands Hospital where he was born.

When Sigglekow joined the Victoria Theatre Trust (VTT), he wasn’t fazed by the work that lay ahead nor by the realities of the cost of it.

In an early tour of inspection by torchlight, he was quite encouraged by what he found and possibly more optimistic in his projections than others at the time.

“I reckoned $50,000 would get it open, but it would need another $160,000 to get it up to any level of comfort,” he recalls.

“But of course we absolutely had to open the place. I never had any doubt about that. These are the gems, that hold our communities together. And I love old buildings, It’s what I do. We lost the fight for the Masonic, but this project was going to happen.”

What followed was a tremendous amount of work, from complex engineering oversight to trips to Hamilton to scoop up old fabric and whole rows of second-hand chairs. Sigglekow is proud to have been across almost every detail of the project, though he says he never lifted a paintbrush.

For a man with a long list of big projects to his credit, The Vic was smaller fry, but it is close to his heart.

In Sigglekow’s working life, he’s been involved in the construction of many new supermarkets, shopping malls, sports centres, busways, town centres, the North Shore Sports Centre, and the Bruce Mason Centre, among many other projects. Most recently, he’s proud of the overhaul of the Melanesian Mission building in Mission Bay. In Devonport, the Yacht Club was revamped with his help, and he still chuckles at his part in the rescue of the Calliope Sea Scout Hall.

“It’s a great little place. But when I went underneath for a look around, there were piles lying on the ground. Gee whizz, I thought, there’s not a lot holding this place up.”

He’d learnt to sail as a Sea Scout himself and naturally was going to be all over the restoration of the little building.

He’s modest about his work but acknowledges that his reputation with the council would have given them confidence in his project management of the Vic.

“It was a pleasure to undertake the refurb and the works since,” he says. In his pragmatic, no-fuss summary: “Just another project for me, no more taxing than the others. We planned ahead, secured the funding and then delivered. We had great support from local tradies and the money went further than expected. A good outcome.”

The theatre is serving the community, he says. “And that end of town has certainly livened up.”

But before the much-anticipated opening night, Sigglekow would have his own drama. He suffered a heart attack, remembered in a far more colourful recollection by his VTT co-chair, Margot McRae.

“What a shock that was,” says McRae.

“How could I have gone on and opened the place without him? He’s such a rock, just quietly getting things done. And then he had another one, another heart attack.”

At first, Sigglekow hesitates to mention the heart attacks of the past decade, but on reflection he agrees they’ve had an impact on his story.

He says maybe they are related to a busy, demanding professional life.

“We absolutely had to open the place. I never had any doubt about that. These are the gems that hold our communities together.”

The first, he recalls, saw him spend three days in hospital.

“I picked up a stent as most of us modern males have and continued on. The second [heart attack, seven years ago] was more dramatic. In one of my better life decisions, I called an ambulance, and dropped dead a minute after they arrived. Perfect timing. I was resuscitated with a full recovery,” he says.

“I picked up an internal coronary device after that, which is like my own personal defibrillator. So theoretically, if it happens again, I just reboot and keep going.”

The third heart attack, two years ago was a more minor affair, he says, but gained him another stent.

Since then, he’s had a burst of travel to remote places “working through my bucket list”. Now, he says his doctor tells him to “get a bigger bucket”.

His working life these days is mostly focused on lecturing property students at the University of Auckland.

For now, there may be no other old buildings lying in wait for a man who could magic them back to their former glory, but there could be further projects.

“You meet people with a vision… and you know, my job is to make it happen.There are little trusts all over the country doing wonderful things.”

Sigglekow grew up in a family with a strong sense service to society, and his own background includes plenty of involvement in school and community.

His father, Len, was the founding director of North Shore Abilities and very active in the Lions Club.

His mother, Maxeen, was a senior Plunket Nurse on the North Shore and widely known across her territory.

“One of life’s embarrassing moments for me was escorting her to the doctors’ rooms when she was about 90 and I was in my mid- 50s. She was chatting to an elderly Plunket mate in the waiting room saying that I was breast fed and I turned out alright… in a loud voice for the amusement of the whole waiting room.”

In Sigglekow’s career, The Vic has been a major heritage success story that continues to unfold. Next up is the redevelopment of the building’s foyer.

But today he’s tickled with a bit of news that’s just come to hand. He’s heard The Vic will be included in the line-up of Auckland cinemas screening movies in the annual New Zealand International Film Festival in October and November.

“This is something we are excited about and I am sure Devonport will be as well.”

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