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Monday, March 7, 2011

Shock demolition of landmarks barely halted

Personal note: I drive by both of these buildings regularly; the Piko building was one of my fave of the old brick buildings, and I was glad to see it survive the September quake (albeit with scaffolding for a while).  The Rep Theatre was damaged in the last quake but was going to be rebuilt.  Seems neither will survive this quake.

Shock demolition of landmarks barely halted

Last updated 05:00 08/03/2011
Two Christchurch landmarks narrowly avoided the wrecker's ball yesterday, after the building owners learnt of impending demolition at short notice.

The Kilmore St buildings face an uncertain future, having received only a temporary stay of execution.

The Christchurch Repertory Theatre was due to be demolished yesterday afternoon, but Repertory Theatre objections ensured a brief reprieve.

Repertory spokeswoman Rozena Hallum said they had asked to be able to enter the building to retrieve sets, costumes and other items.

"We received a phone call from someone at the city council on Sunday afternoon indicating that the building was to be 'deconstructed' at 3pm on Monday.

"We objected strongly, saying that the building was still standing after the September 4 earthquake and that we wanted the opportunity to get in to get stuff out."

The demolition had been halted, but Hallum said they had been told the building would soon be "partially deconstructed".

The Spanish mission-style building, the first built by Christchurch builder Charles Luney, was opened in 1929.

The Repertory Theatre took over in 1950.

Piko Wholefoods' site escaped after the owners found out about the demolition at the last minute.

Piko trustee Tineke Witteman said the group had asked the council to hold off on demolition until engineers could go through the building.

She only heard about the attempted demolition when a friend texted her as the demolition crew was moving towards the site. "It was like a bolt out of the blue. Nobody spoke to us about it at all."

The building's top floor had been demolished, but the council had agreed to halt demolition of the entire building.

Witteman said the charitable co-operative, set up in 1979 with the help of former Green Party co-leader Rod Donald, had been an important part of the country's organic foods scene.

"It's pretty unique. There's not much else like it."

The 106-year-old building had been earthquake-strengthened five years ago, which Witteman believed saved the lives of those in the building.

She said the loss of the Kilmore St store would be difficult. "It took 29 years to build up, and 25 seconds to knock down. It's just not fair."

Meanwhile, tenants in the badly-damaged Kenton Chambers building in central Christchurch fear it could also be "hastily" demolished.

A group of tenants have jointly emailed Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton, urging caution.

Hamilton said "every practical endeavour" was made to contact building owners 24 hours before demolition.

Demolition was never approved without assessments by structural engineers, he said.

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