Call to save facade of building 'too late'

Demoltion begins on former Artery building

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:58 26/03/2014
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ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

COMING DOWN: Contractors have begun work to demolish the former Artery building in New St.

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Demolition of the former Artery building on New St has begun but the artist behind its sculptured facade is still urging the Nelson City Council to halt it.

After a poor seismic rating, the council announced last year the New St building, which later became the Hub, was to be demolished.

The roof is being removed this week with total demotion expected to be completed within the next four weeks.

The council said it will be able to save two panels from the mosaic. They hold colourful tiles which were made by a cross-section of the community including primary school children on school holiday programmes, people on intellectual disability programmes, community wage workers and tourists.

The artist behind the large mosaic, Valeska Campion wants the whole facade saved and is urging people to sign a petition.

She started the petition over the weekend on the website change.org requesting the council to halt the destruction of the mosaic, in order to allow public submissions to be presented on it.

She felt the council had "whipped" the demolition tender through without consulting the public.

She said there was "no rationale" behind the council declining to save the mosaic.

"Nelson prides itself on being an arts centre, what on earth are they doing? We are meant to be creating more things like that, not pulling them down.

"I feel very strongly that this decision would be regretted in the future."

Demolition contractors NorWest said it would be able to salvage about 90 per cent of the building, including the timber floors and the stage that was in the main hall.

That stage was now sitting on a farm waiting to be sold. They also refurbished a piano that was left in the building.

Demolition workers also told the Nelson Mail they would "100 per cent" be able to save the tile panels on the front of the building, which were made by the community.

Council works and infrastructure committee chairman Eric Davy said the council's intention with the building had always been in the public arena.

"There was nothing hidden or secret about it, its been in the public arena then whole time."

In July 2013 the Nelson Mail reported that the council was going to demolish it and convert the site to parking by June 2014 because of its poor seismic strength rating.

Mr Davey said the council would save the panels on each side of the doorway. "The rest is impossible and it's a bit disappointing it's left till now [to try to save it] after the decision was made early last year that we would demolish the building. It's a bit late now we have contractors on site."

The council was looking into where the panels could be housed in Nelson.

He said he was "sympathetic" to Campion and the 160 people who had signed the petition but they had left it too late.

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