Earthquake-damaged Wellington building may be demolished
The vacant office block earmarked for "likely deconstruction" on Molesworth St is understood to be among Wellington's first high-rise buildings.
Rich-lister and property magnate Eyal Aharoni owns the former Deloitte building, but has yet to speak publicly about its future.
The multi-storey office tower - once considered a 'Thorndon landmark' - was built as two structures in the 1960s, a nine-storey main block and an 11-storey service block linked by flexible joints.
Cordons have been in place around the building since Tuesday, following this week's swarm of quakes, aftershocks and an onslaught of atrocious weather.
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Nearby businesses have also been forced out while the threat was being assessed.
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said "it's likely" the building would need to be deconstructed because of internal instability.
"We've had some assessment done and the landlord is in agreement and happy to take the engineers' advice and, likewise, the insurer as well.
Lester said a plan for dealing with the building was still being finalised, but should be confirmed shortly.
Aharoni - who is reportedly worth around $70m - bought the building in July 2011 for $5.2 million - less than half of its rateable value (RV) of $11.3m.
As at September 2015, the property was worth $8.4m.
The building was originally designed by Stephenson and Turner and was built by Fletchers. It underwent a full refurbishment in 1990.
In 2005, researcher Andrew Leach raised concerns about the future of 61 Molesworth St, arguing the now-unsteady office block had "a deserved place in New Zealand's architectural history".
Wellington City Council's general manager of building control Mike Scott said officials held "significant concern" over the building's stability.
"We've had feedback engaged by the engineers of the building that there has been some reasonably substantial damage to one part of the building, " Scott said.
"It is - structurally - not in the best condition, but again, we've got a cordon in place so if there was a catastrophic failure, we are confident that nobody would be injured."
Scott said Aharoni had been cooperative throughout the process.
"To be frank, the building owner and us will be guided by the engineering expertise that's coming to bear on this. We've got some of the pre-eminent engineers in the country working on this right across the board.
Several attempts have been made to speak to Aharoni, a former Israeli army major and Victoria University geophysics' graduate, but those efforts have been unsuccessful.
Scott worked to allay fears over the building's potential threat to public safety.
"Keep calm and carry on. We've got this under control, we're being very sensible about how we're doing it. We're making sure that we're working with all the right authorities and all the right experts to get the right answer to get things happening as soon as possible."
Lester has downplayed the impact of the Molesworth St's building's probable "deconstruction" on surrounding properties.
"We've just seen, in Wellington, a building has been deconstructed as a result of the 2013 earthquakes and that was BP House," Lester said.
"It's currently being reconstructed with a new building going up there. Up until recently, that area wasn't cordoned off ... people could walk past."