Demo an option for damaged high-rise

DEMO JOB: The quake-damaged vacant BP House on Customhouse Quay had a 2012 rating value of $21.5 million.
DEMO JOB: The quake-damaged vacant BP House on Customhouse Quay had a 2012 rating value of $21.5 million.

BP House in Customhouse Quay may become the first modern Wellington high-rise office block to be demolished in the wake of last year's earthquakes.

The 10-storey block has been empty since it sustained damage in the Seddon earthquakes last July and August and its owner says it may be demolished.

BP, which had the head lease on the block, announced earlier this year that it was shifting its head office to Auckland.

Other tenants also moved out of the building which was rendered unsafe because its stairways were damaged.

Craig Brockliss, a director of Auckland's Loris Properties which bought the building in 2009 for $26 million, said the company was in a joint venture with another party to look at options on the site.

"It could involve refurbishing the building or pulling the whole thing down, it depends on what the market wants."

Formulating plans and lining up potential tenants for the property was likely to take most of this year, he said. "We're definitely going to do something as it's a very good site. I've got ideas but beyond that I can't say."

It is understood that Loris is working in partnership with Newcrest Group, the company behind a proposed six-storey office block development on the waterfront that was knocked back by the Environment Court in 2012.

The BP building had been assessed as earthquake-prone - just below 33 per cent of new building standards.

"The stairways got damaged in the last earthquake and they have to be repaired. Obviously we couldn't put people in there at the moment as we would have to fix those stairwells and that's an option.

"But they are severely cracked."

Brockliss said there were no other obvious flaws with the building. The seismic rating just related to the nature of its design.

No information is available on the property's current value, but without tenants its value must be substantially below its 2012 rating value of $21.5m. It is a freehold property and the land alone was valued at $10m.

BP House was designed by Stephenson & Turner and built between 1968 and 1970.

Former Victoria University dean of architecture David Kernohan said the building was an example of one of Wellington's high modern buildings and part of the city's streetscape.

Stephenson & Turner principal Dennis Chippindale said it did not have the significance of earlier modern buildings, such as Shell House on The Terrace which was the city's first high-rise glass tower.

"We would be sad to see it demolished because it was a building we were very proud of and one we looked after over the years.

"It was a groovy building in its day but it's probably getting to the point in its life when people start questioning a lot of things about it. A good shake has thrown a few of those things up."

Special features of the building included the public engagement spaces on the ground floor and the 148-seat BP theatrette, which was very well used.

Elements of this were lost in later modifications when the entrances were split and a gym was put in, said Chippindale.

It was also a forerunner of a lot of modern buildings with its cybernetic office design where the concept was to have everyone out in open office space to improve communications and express a more egalitarian attitude.

The Dominion Post