Quake-vulnerable Podium going

Now:  Work begins on the demolition of The Podium in  Market St, Blenheim.
Now: Work begins on the demolition of The Podium in Market St, Blenheim.

A 26-tonne excavator last night made short work of demolishing The Podium, the earthquake-vulnerable building in central Blenheim.

The excavator's enormous toothed bucket chomped up most of the Wynen St wall, exposing the former hotel's interior, which had been totally gutted last week.

Passers-by stopped to watch the heavy machinery rip into the concrete-clad timber walls and take photos.

Wynen St was reduced to one lane during the demolition to give the excavator room to manoeuvre.

Subcontractor Paul Flanagan said labourers had been working seven days a week to deconstruct the two-storeyed building, on the corner of Market and Wynen streets. Despite work being delayed by a week, he was confident the site would be cleared within the next four to five weeks.

Cherubs Childrenswear owner Lynda Butt was delighted to see progress and praised the contractors' work.

"The guys have been amazing, keeping us in touch with what stage they're at," she said. "The new building will be so good, it will tidy this area right up."

Today, the contractors would be removing the beams from the remainder of the second floor, in preparation for the excavator to tear down its walls tonight.

Blenheim firm T H Barnes has the contract for the demolition and construction of the single-storeyed replacement building.

The new retail space has already been snapped up by Number 1 Shoe Warehouse, and the project was expected to be completed by January 31.

According to Marlborough District Council files, the original building went up before 1923. The hotel, formerly known as The Podium, opened in the 1960s.

The building is one of 22 in Blenheim and Picton under notice by the council to be strengthened or be demolished.