Wrecking ball comes for former Molly Malones building, site to remain empty for 18 months

The former Molly Malones building sits on the corner of Courtenay Pl and Taranaki St.
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

The former Molly Malones building sits on the corner of Courtenay Pl and Taranaki St.

A building which once housed popular Irish pub Molly Malones is set to be demolished.

Resource consent documents show the building, on the corner of Courtenay Pl and Taranaki St in Wellington, will come down before the end of the year, and will be left empty for 18 months.

The building's owners have tentative plans to rebuild on the land, though designs are yet to be finalised.

In the meantime, the site may be let to pop up retailers and hospitality operators.

READ MORE:
Ewan Henderson, the former Wellington director of Molly Malone's bar, bankrupt
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The 7.8 magnitude earthquake in November caused significant damage to the three-storey building, including cracks in the brick walls. One wall moved 3 centimetres and had to be temporarily stabilised with timber strapping.

The building was gutted after Molly Malones went into receivership.
RUBY MACANDREW/FAIRFAX NZ

The building was gutted after Molly Malones went into receivership.

In a resource consent application letter to Wellington City Council, Cornerstone Partners chief executive Andrew Cotterrell​ said the company was committed to demolishing the building as it had been "significantly compromised" by the earthquake.

It was also committed to rebuilding on the site, he said.

"We have already held one pre-application meeting to explore the potential form and design of the new building and we are proceeding with discussions with likely tenants."

Prior to gaining consent to rebuild, an investigation would be conducted to determine whether any archaeological evidence related to Te Aro Kainga was present on the site.

In the decision document, Wellington City Council senior consents planner Lisa Hayes said open space at ground level in the central city was "generally discouraged by the council as they diminish the streetscape character and the city's commercial viability".

Cracking in a brick wall inside the building.
SUPPLIED

Cracking in a brick wall inside the building.

"In this case, the building has been identified by the council as earthquake prone … [and] the applicant contends that the building 'is a clear and present danger to the public'."

In addition, the owners planned to fill the space in the interim, and eventually rebuild, meaning any effects on the streetscape would be temporary, Hayes said.

However, the council's senior heritage advisor Vanessa Tanner opposed the demolition.

She said that while the build was not heritage listed, it had significance in terms of the build and social context.

Heritage New Zealand also weighed in, saying the loss of the Molly Malones building was regrettable due to both the heritage qualities of the building and its place in more recent social history.

Timber strapping was installed to prevent further damage.
SUPPLIED

Timber strapping was installed to prevent further damage.

Hayes said there were no rules preventing its demolition as it was not a heritage building.

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"While I acknowledged the advice of Ms Tanner that there will be an adverse heritage effect associated with this loss, this will be a public effect and needs to be balanced with the risk to public safety if the unsafe building is to be retained," Hayes said.

The demolition is expected to start within the third quarter of 2017.

The 1908 building was originally home to the Clarendon Hotel.

Molly Malones director Ewan Henderson, who was declared bankrupt in May 2016, is a former director of the Heritage Property Group which sold the building in 2011 to Wellington property investor Chao (Charlie) Zheng.

Molly Malones was put into liquidation in 2015.

The landlord's court documents say Molly Malones, and another bar owned by Henderson, 3C, owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent.

 - Stuff

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