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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Demolition plan sparks concerns

Demolition plan sparks concerns

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 12/04/2011
 
Civil Defence is considering using explosives to demolish the earthquake-hit Hotel Grand Chancellor despite concerns it could cause a "mini-earthquake", damaging nearby buildings.

Tenders to demolish the 27-storey Cashel St building closed yesterday, with at least four companies submitting proposals to bring it down by "implosion" or using a crane.

Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton said no decision had been made to use explosives, but there was a risk that surrounding buildings could be damaged.

"A controlled explosion will be swift, but the counter-argument is there is a risk of collateral damage," he said. "There is a risk with both methods."

The Copthorne Hotel in Durham St and the Harcourts building in Madras St fell into a similar category, requiring demolition to reopen parts of the city but with potential for damage to surrounding buildings, he said. He could not provide a timetable for when any of them would be demolished because it would ultimately be a decision for building owners and insurers.

A building industry source said Civil Defence's critical-building team was leaning towards using explosives, and he was worried about potential damage to surrounding buildings. "They are very excited about blowing it up."

He said nearby building owners were pushing for a more traditional demolition.

Patrick Porter, who owns information technology firm Jade Creative near the Grand Chancellor, said there was huge concern among nearby business owners.

"If the demolition doesn't go to plan, it could affect other buildings," he said. "It could cause a mini-earthquake."

Nathan Simon, who owns the Malbas Bar on the corner of Manchester and Cashel streets, said the crippled Grand Chancellor had prevented him from visiting his business. He was not expecting any access until after Christmas. "If [an implosion] was to be done with explosives, the seismic shock would put a lot of buildings in jeopardy," he said.

Property company KPI Rothschild owns three buildings in the shadow of the hotel. Project manager Eamonn Stockman said if other buildings were brought down in the Grand Chancellor's demolition, dozens of businesses would lose vital files and equipment. "It is a concern for our tenants," he said. "If somebody goes and blows that building up, these people are actually losing their livelihoods."

Balanced against damage to buildings was the need to reopen the central city quickly to save businesses, he said. "It's a tough call either way."

Grand Chancellor general manager Steve Martin said: "I do believe it can be done safely. "It's not just throwing some dynamite in there and hoping for the best."

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