Tenders close for already delayed art centre

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2012

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Tenders for New Plymouth's controversial $10 million Len Lye Centre close today.

The district council is expecting as many as four bids for the project that will also include $2.655m renewal work and an unbudgeted amount for earthquake strengthening at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.

Council projects manager Jim Willson said there had not been time to get an accurate estimate of the earthquake work required at the gallery, but the Taranaki Daily News understands it could be about $1.5m.

The construction of the Len Lye Centre is being funded from grants and donations. Work on the gallery's climate control system and earthquake strengthening will be paid for from the council's renewal fund.

The three elements will be priced separately but tenders will treat them as one project to achieve economies of scale. When completed the two buildings will operate as one.

Despite this collective approach Mr Willson said all elements must be completed within their separate budgets.

"The thing is we have got these limits and they are very real. If we have to we will have to look at ways to make savings to achieve these budgets. We have made it quite clear to all parties in the tender process. We will be sticking to the budget," he said.

A three member evaluation panel will select the successful tender by January 31 with work to begin on February 8.

However, Mr Willson expects the first two weeks of construction to be largely a mobilisation period with work on the ground starting towards the end of the month.

Construction is expected to take 18 months and is about two months behind its original schedule, largely because of the requirement to add in the earthquake strengthening work.

Until the tender is selected Mr Willson said they would not know the timetable of construction work and whether the gallery would be closed for the entire period.

When the gallery is closed its collection will be housed in the council's new Hobson St storage facility. It is not yet known where staff will move to.

Mr Willson said the earthquake strengthening work required the construction of a wall inside the gallery and a structural steel diaphragm on the roof and middle floor.

"It is very labour intensive. There is a lot more work in earthquake strengthening than you would think," he said.

When up and running the Len Lye Centre's running costs for the first year are budgeted at $362,000 or about $10 per ratepayer.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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