The result of heritage at any price

A must read op ed by Grant Corleison in the Dom Post:

The next step in the fracas that the future of the in Lambton Quay has become is likely to result in Wellington’s own version of the Marie Celeste, that abandoned ghost ship of the Atlantic.

After all the to-ings and fro-ings to get the only commercially viable option of demolition and rebuilding approved, the owner has pulled the plug and intends to cordon off and abandon the building for safety reasons because its heritage value is apparently unique but unaffordable to retain.

Well done . You have turned a major building into an abandoned wreck.

Since then, the building has spawned an industry of Wellington property professionals, economists, architects, commercial real estate agents and lawyers dedicated to advising on the future of the building.

Almost all, except the city council and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, say the only solution from safety, heritage and economic aspects, is demolition and redevelopment.

The building is currently uninsurable, and if restored to an acceptable quake standard of 80 per cent of building code the premium per year is quoted as $455,000 plus GST.

Based on my experience, that cost will keep increasing.

The building’s owner, Mark Dunajtschik, has spent more than $500,000 getting professional opinions on its future. It would cost $10.8m to bring the building up to 80 per cent of the standard, with the option of demolition of the building and retaining the facade estimated at $6.5m.

Due diligence has been done by outside parties on renovating the building into apartments, converting it to a hotel and student accommodation. All declined to progress their options and all said the two strengthening and refurbishment options were not commercially viable.

Among this fracas Mark Dunajtschik offered the building for $1 to the council, the Government and the Historic Place Trust. As a further incentive to address their strident views on the heritage value of the building, he also offered the Historic Places Trust an additional $5m towards strengthening and refurbishment.

Despite media comments, they all declined the offer. They were not prepared to spend their own money on the building.

So the building sits empty was an abandoned wreck. What a triumph for heritage.

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