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Friday, May 6, 2011

Fate of Christchurch's big buildings in limbo

Fate of Christchurch's big buildings in limbo

Last updated 05:00 04/05/2011
Many of Christchurch's tallest buildings remain in limbo more than two months after the earthquake.

So far, 241 buildings had been approved for total demolition, including the Hotel Grand Chancellor, The Press building and the Strategy building, which has already been levelled.

But the fate of most quake-hit giants, such as the Forsyth Barr building and Clarendon Tower, remains unclear with no timetable for repairs or possible demolition.

Colliers International Property Management manages the multi-storey Forsyth Barr and PricewaterhouseCoopers buildings, both of which suffered substantial damage in the quake.

Director Evan Harris said that while early engineering assessments showed the buildings were technically repairable it could still be cheaper to demolish.

"PricewaterhouseCoopers is yellow-stickered but the repair job is massive. It could be 12 to 18 months," he said.

The badly damaged BNZ building on Hereford St was another tough call, he said.

"They are all repairable, it's the dollars that's the issue."

Assessing the damage was expensive and complicated by aftershocks.

It would take months before the buildings could be fully assessed and any decisions made about whether to demolish, Harris said.

"But we had that 5.3 [magnitude aftershock on April 16] and we have to go back to square one."

Canterbury businessman Philip Burdon co-owns the multi-storey Brannigans building on Oxford Terrace, which he described as severely damaged with a "very complicated" future.

Decisions on many large quake-damaged buildings could be delayed by haggling with insurers over whether to rebuild or demolish.

Most building owners would want to rebuild, but insurers would prefer to repair if it was cheaper or offer a reduced indemnity payout, Burdon said.

"The insurance companies will be weighing up very carefully the extent to which they can avoid the replacement cost."

This could leave many large buildings as skeletons hovering over the central city for years, he said.

"My concern is that it will take a long time to get these issues sorted," Burdon said.

"Some of these big buildings will just linger."

The newly established Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) will have the power to force the demolition of buildings that are holding up or do not fit with the recovery plan.

Cera interim deconstruction manager Warwick Isaacs said the organisation was reasonably happy with the process to assess the larger buildings in the central city.

"There has been a significant amount of work done but their size does add complexity," he said.

Cera would move to force demolition or speed up repairs if necessary but no such decision had yet been made, he said.

In all cases, building owners would be consulted and compensated in cases where demolition was necessary, he said.

- The Press

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