The result of heritage at any price

October 11th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

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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42 Responses to “The result of heritage at any price”

  1. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    I could almost understand if it was a unique building. But if it’s an example of Chicago architecture, there is a whole city full of that style in Illinois. If people really want to see it they can travel there.

    If it is not economically viable to restore it, it should be able to be demolished and something else built in its place.

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  2. Kea (13,359 comments) says:

    The selfish pricks who want this building preserved should fork out their money and buy it. The arrogance of telling other people what to do with their own property is sickening.

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  3. Manolo (14,049 comments) says:

    Bureaucracy gone completely mad: the nutter Wade Brown and cohorts doing their worst!
    The wrecking ball is what the Hartcourts building deserves.

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  4. peterwn (3,305 comments) says:

    Similar almost happened in Napier several years ago. In the 1932 earthquake the Cathedral collapsed but a brick hall behind somehow survived although with large cracks in the brickwork. Several years ago the cathedral authorities wanted to demolish it, and some disgruntled person went screaming off to the Historic Places Trust who tried to slap a heritage order on it. Goodness knows why, it was sandwiched between the new Cathedral and Tennyson Street buildings so was not a landmark building. Presumanly the Trust thinks money grows on trees. Following that incident I did not renew my membership.

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  5. Elaycee (4,405 comments) says:

    What a farce. But no surprises that its happened under CWB’s watch.

    Perhaps Mark Dunajtschik could find a ‘taonga’ on site and force the Council to enter into the compulsory acquisition process? 8O

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  6. MT_Tinman (3,257 comments) says:

    I read somewhere this morning that a judge has ruled that commercial viability is not to be considered when a demolition application for this building is discussed.

    Very obviously it’s not just new buildings this country needs.

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  7. flipper (4,199 comments) says:

    peterwn (2,486) Says:
    October 11th, 2013 at 12:19 pm
    Similar almost happened in Napier several years ago. In the 1932 earthquake the Cathedral
    ****
    No desire to create a diversion, but since my grandfather was involved as a contractor in the construction of the wrecked cathedral, I have long had an interest.

    Peterwn is absolutely correct. The dilly Anderton/Burden moves on the ChCh Cathedral are of this “magnitude”.

    The problem lies with BOTH the incompetence of elected officials, and flawed legislation. As Outside The Beltway said in a paper dealing with Local Government and Localism, published just a few days ago:

    **** ” … Having been elected, Mayors, Chairmen, Councillors, and others are promptly absolved of any responsibility, and electors effectively dis-enfranchised, by legislation that delegates virtually all decision making to a Chief Executive, who in turn appoints all staff. And by councillors with limited competence as governors failing to take control. There is therefore a fundamental disconnect between ratepayers and local government, to the extent that one mayor says his CEO must be paid more than $800,000 pa “to meet the market”. The folly inherent in the present, and even as it will be in the amended legislation, is thus apparent. Worse, local government is underwritten by taxpayers. …”
    ***

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  8. Kea (13,359 comments) says:

    Perhaps Mark Dunajtschik could find a ‘taonga’ on site and force the Council to enter into the compulsory acquisition process?

    Great idea. Just throw a handful of burnt cockle shells under the floor :)

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  9. mikenmild (11,709 comments) says:

    All the court desision really says is that the judge is not convinced that the owner has properly examined all options for the building’s redevelopment. Perhaps if he restarts his application to demolish with a more thorough assessment he will get a different result.

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  10. Rowan (2,521 comments) says:

    What a joke, this should be the owners decision and not the historic places trust or as in the case of the Christchurch Cathedral, Jim Anderton and the ‘save the cathedral brigade’
    Flipper
    Is the OTB piece available online anywhere, it would be interesting to see, really enjoyed the previous one on Judith Collins & Justice Binnie et al.
    I have an interest in the Christchurch Cathedral one as am descended from those involved in its design.

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  11. Kea (13,359 comments) says:

    milky, why should the owner have to do that ?

    How about I start making demands about what you do with your house, because I claim to like looking at it ?

    This architectural necrophilia should be treated with the contempt it deserves. If you want to preserve those rotten useless old buildings then you do it with your money and not someone elses.

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  12. Rowan (2,521 comments) says:

    Milkenmaid
    Yes am sure there are options for redevelopment but as the article says the owner has already forked out a lot and it doesn’t appear to be economically viable.

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  13. flipper (4,199 comments) says:

    Rowan…

    OTB circulates privately by email, but sends to folk like DPOF and media.

    Judith, whose email. address is a non de plume, has the address…. but otherwise it can be requested at

    outsidethebeltway@clear.co.nz

    Failing that, ask DPF to on pass a copy.

    Cheers
    F

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  14. gump (1,661 comments) says:

    I’m finding it hard to get upset about this.

    Property investment carries a number of risks, and any competent property investor should have understood that buying a heritage listed building with a 4% building code compliance was a mind-numbingly stupid thing to do.

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  15. slightlyrighty (2,475 comments) says:

    Gump.

    Buying a building with 4% of building code may not be a good investment in your eyes, but that site is commercial gold. The problem at hand is those who seem intent on preserving history at the expense of commercial realism. That site should be freed up for a more appropriate development. Wellington is not blessed with an abundance of land and we must face the facts that retaining all our heritage comes at a cost. Those who wish to keep it, should fund it, and not place the owners under duress as they are doing in this case.

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  16. flipper (4,199 comments) says:

    gump (869) Says:
    October 11th, 2013 at 12:49 pm
    I’m finding it hard to get upset about this
    *****
    In your case, entirely understandable.

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  17. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    heritage my arse, its bricks and mortar – heritage value old does not necessiarly mean valued !!!!! . Knock it down

    I was in Wellington two weeks ago never noticed it , used to live there never noticed it, its not like its the Eifffel tower , its just another old building FFS.

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

    Like media comments mean anything anyway – but if a council who specialises in spending other people’s money wont touch it, what does that tell ya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This retaining facades is crap as well, why not put up a picture instead!!!!!! First world problems people.

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  18. gump (1,661 comments) says:

    @slightlyrighty

    I entirely agree that heritage comes at a cost, and that cost is reflected in the discounted price that heritage properties are traded for.

    The site will only become “commercial gold” if the current building is removed. But the owner purchased the building knowing that it carried an “Historic Place Category 1″ rating and could never be demolished or significantly altered. It’s important to realise that the building gained it’s HPT classification in 1990 – so nothing has changed during its current ownership.

    http://www.historic.org.nz/TheRegister/RegisterSearch/RegisterResults.aspx?RID=1435

    If the owner wants tenants, he should spend the $10 million which is required to bring it up to code compliance.

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  19. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Real heritage is ” knowledge” not a pile of bricks .

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  20. RRM (10,012 comments) says:

    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.

    Of course not. Telling other people how they must spend their own money is how Historic Places rolls…

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  21. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Part of New Zealands heritage is dusty horse shit covered streets alive with rats and opium dens. We do not have to have this physically before us to know that it has happened in our past

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  22. Keeping Stock (10,419 comments) says:

    It is indeed a must-read piece about which I blogged earlier today DPF. I am involved with an organisation here that is caught up in a battle over earthquake strengthening. The battle is between the local council, and the organisation’s national body which wants a higher standard of code compliance than the Wanganui District Council requires. To achieve that, it’s going to cost something in the region of $5m, and that’s rising all the time.

    I can understand everyone being conservative given likely liability issues in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake. But the stoush over the Harcourts building has brought this dilemma into focus, and that’s a very good thing.

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.co.nz/2013/10/the-harcourts-building.html

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  23. RRM (10,012 comments) says:

    It seems to be reasonably feasible to retain the facade of the historic building, and build your 25-storey tower inside. Thereby keeping the heritage policy socialists happy while still getting your money-making 25 storey tower. Look at Kirkcaldie’s. Look at the apartment block now under construction on the old Bresolini restaurant site on Tory St. Look at One Market Lane.

    Mr Dunajtschik gambled when he bought it cheap, knowing its condition and heritage status.

    IMO he is trying to pretend he’s gambled and already lost.

    In the hope that an unholy alliance of heritage policy socialists who want old stuff saved at any cost (so long as it’s somebody else’s cost) and “councils BAD” talking heads like DPF who feel sorry for the poor maligned property speculator, will pressure the council into stumping up some money to make his investment even better.

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  24. Michael (910 comments) says:

    I’ve been in the building a few times. It’s laid out for the old style everyone in an office style and not able to be properly used as a open plan office. Demolishing and rebuilding a modern building retaining the facade is the only practical option to retain the heritage features.

    I think the most ridiculous heritage building in NZ is the shed on Auckland’s Queens Wharf. It’s a corrugated iron shed with no architectural features at all. And yet we had the anti progress brigade demand retention. It’s a shame such a small minority can hold the rest of us to ransom.

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  25. Manolo (14,049 comments) says:

    If anti-progress there must be some Green involvement. WCC’s nefarious Wade Brown proves the point in this case.

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  26. greenjacket (482 comments) says:

    I just walked over and had a look at it.
    The exterior is not at all attractive or unique and is clearly a significant hazard in an earthquake. The interior is very old and dark and dingy – on impressions alone, it is very unattractive commercially, and would be a very great risk in an earthquake.

    The building is not viable, and even retaining the facade would be a major risk – rip it down now before people are killed in it.

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  27. Kea (13,359 comments) says:

    greenjacket, If any of these crumbling old shit boxes injures anyone in a quake, those who lobbied to preserve them should be named and shamed.

    We need to encourage those private individuals who want to do away with misplaced and outdated architecture and encourage the development of modern NZ architecture.

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  28. Alan Wilkinson (1,887 comments) says:

    The owner should gift it to the judge. Then sit back laughing.

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  29. greenjacket (482 comments) says:

    The interior decor is 1930s marble and dark wood panelling in an art deco style and it will be a loss to see that go, but the exterior is uninspiring. Theere is no point in retaining the facade at all, but the marble and wood panelling lobby (which is potenially very nice) could be removed and put back into a new building on the site.
    But there are large cracks all through the building – it is an obvious and imminent risk. I walked around it, with the large cracks in the walls I felt the whole place could go – if there was an earthquake, it would just collapse completely. The Council have plastered warning notices all over it, and MFAT (the neighbours) have notices telling people not to enter it because it is such a risk. Seriously – it is a very major risk – people will get killed in this building, and it sits astride the narrowest and busiest part of Lambton Quay.

    The Historic Places Trust should be seriously condemned for their ridiculous attitude.

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  30. Ross12 (1,454 comments) says:

    Dunajtschik will win this. Those who say he took a gamble and should have known what he was getting into — well he win the gamble. He will have on going rates costs but ultimately the whingers will have to give in unless they want to wait until the next “big one” or allow what will turn into an eyesore, develop. Then Dunajtschik will have the valuable piece of land.

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  31. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    The interior marble and wood panelling will fetch a good price on the salvage market.

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  32. holysheet (426 comments) says:

    In the meantime the owner is praying for a moderate earthquake to demolish it and that will end all this fuss.

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  33. gump (1,661 comments) says:

    If the HPT buckles in this case, they’ll create a precedent that will encourage property owners to avoid strengthening their buildings. Why strengthen a building when you can neglect it, demolish it, and unlock the land value?

    It’s therefore important that the HPT hold their line.

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  34. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    What usually happens in this situation is this –

    * Building sits abandoned for a while.
    * A few vagrants move into the building and set a fire.
    * Building is badly damaged by the fire.
    * Building is demolished due to the fire damage. Problem solved.

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  35. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    I’d be busing the drunks and street kids in as we speak.

    Wonder how long the people in the next building will put up with it –

    Or the owner if he has a few genuine quid – the thing to do is just knock the fucking thing down and pay the fine. Thats been done before

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  36. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    He could always crash a plane into it…

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  37. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    He could always crash a plane into it…

    why would the government do that gazza? Hold on…….reid are you there?

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  38. OneTrack (3,223 comments) says:

    “It’s therefore important that the HPT hold their line.”

    What line is that? That old buildings are more important than anything else, including the lives of people walking past the thing in an earthquake prone area. That there is no point trying to talk logically to the HPT because they just don’t care?

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  39. Viking2 (11,564 comments) says:

    All he needs to do is check out what the Crow bro’s did to help their building in Auckland get demolished, (by the council) worked for them

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  40. wreck1080 (3,958 comments) says:

    the building looked a bit ugly to me.

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  41. gump (1,661 comments) says:

    @OneTrack

    “What line is that? That old buildings are more important than anything else, including the lives of people walking past the thing in an earthquake prone area. That there is no point trying to talk logically to the HPT because they just don’t care?”

    —————————–

    The only person that doesn’t care is the building owner.

    By not spending money to strengthen the building, he is the person who is placing the lives of passersby at risk.

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  42. BigFish (132 comments) says:

    The building was heritage listed when he purchased it.
    The developer has just jumped on the Christchurch demolition bandwagon. The cost of strengthening to the required standard (33%) is substantially less than the 100% cost that keeps getting quoted.

    When the HSBC tower next door (same owners) was approved for construction it was approved partly on the condition that the Harcourts Building be refurbished and retained. The new tower isn’t exactly beautiful.
    The pounding risk to the newer tower quoted is interesting given that an equally brittle and heavy heritage facade is incorporated in to that tower where it meets the Harcourts Building’s facade. If the developer built the new tower too close then that was the developer’s own decision.

    The developer also encroached on the older building’s lightwell and the airspace above it. Anything that’s been done to reduce the value of the Harcourts Building is the owner’s own doing, including the constant talk of it being worthless.

    There are plenty of average ’70’s and ’80’s buildings that the public would love to see replaced (some might even be bigger quake risks). How about the Burger King building opposite Midland Park for starters?

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