Square Centre strengthening begins

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 28/02/2014

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The biggest seismic strengthening project undertaken in central Palmerston North so far has begun at the five-storey Square Centre.

The multimillion-dollar project on the 50-year-old former library will pose a range of challenges for principal contractor Isles Construction, working in an almost fully tenanted building during the next six months.

The building on the corner of The Square and Main St was identified as potentially earthquake prone in the city council's desktop review last year.

Isles Construction commercial operations manager Cameron Isles said three engineering reports rated the building below 66 per cent of new building code standards, and the goal was to bring it up to 100 per cent. Work began on the site this week, using the former deNada women's fashion shop as the main trades entrance.

"It would be easy if the building were closed for six months, but we have to work around people, with a very challenging design," said Mr Isles. Three tenants are food outlets, whose operations would be particularly sensitive to the effects of working in a construction zone.

Much of the work would be carried out after hours to limit disruption, but even so, many of the retailers operated seven days a week. Jeweller Ross Hyde's family business has been based in the building since 1964.

Right next door to the main site entrance, he is likely to face some of the greatest inconvenience.

"Over the years we have had earthquakes and not really noticed. But in September, that was the first time I thought, ‘I really need to get out of here'.

"While we will experience disruption, we are looking forward to the job being completed, for my safety and the safety of staff and customers."

One of the upstairs tenants is Destination Manawatu. Chief executive Lance Bickford said its board had been proactive in seeking information about the building's safety.

"It is a crucial building on the Palmerston North streetscape.

"The work will not affect us very much, and we have a duty of care to our staff, visitors and people who interact with us."

Mr Isles said the project would be very different to the recently completed task of strengthening the heritage Bryant Building on the corner of The Square and Church St, which his firm also managed.

Steel had been the main ingredient in that work.

This time, it would be concrete.

There would be 1.8-metre deep foundations, 12m deep ground anchors, 20 tonnes of reinforcing, steel tie beams on every floor, seven sheer walls, poured from the bottom and compacted upwards.

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Contractors' early focus would be on the empty 1 floors to be taken over by the Electoral Board in April to begin preparations for the elections. Part of Maple Lane would be closed to vehicles during the project, but access from Church St to the court house would be retained.

- Manawatu Standard

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