Repair option gives way to grass

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 08:41 30/03/2013

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A $32-million hotel in the heart of the Christchurch CBD will be bought by the Government and demolished to make way for grassland in what operators and owners say is a waste of money and opportunity.

The 12-storey Oaks iStay building has 180 rooms and could be repaired and opened in about nine months, according to a project works plan attached to the latest engineering report.

The yellow-stickered building at the corner of Cashel and Liverpool streets has been closed since the February 2011 quake and remains inside the central business district red zone.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) has told the owner, a body corporate, that it will buy the building as part of the green frame anchor project and it intended to demolish it. Oaks Hotels & Resorts legal director Lachlan Hoswell said the building was structurally sound and should remain because it could provide hotel rooms or temporary accommodation in the heart of the city.

"It's a lot of money to make way for parkland, and it was only built in 2005," he said.

Two engineers spoken to by The Press believed the building was repairable but Cera said it would take more months and money than expected to fix the building, making such a plan impractical.

Thornton Tomasetti vice president and engineer Peter Wrona said his firm had spent weeks reviewing the building in early 2012. He believed the repair would cost about $6 million, including contingencies.

"The bottom line is the building is repairable and when you repair it, it will be back to a very good condition structurally."

Since the CBD blueprint was unveiled in July 2012, the repair project froze due to the threat of demolition, he said.

Body corporate chairman David Tipple said he was resigned to the Government taking the building, and hoped the price offered was fair.

He had thought the 180-room building was "a dream come true for the reconstruction of Christchurch" that could be used for visitors or worker accommodation right by the construction zone, he said.

He has since found out Cera intended to demolish it.

Body corporate member Pam Jones believed it would make more sense to repair the building and use it, if only for 10 years during the rebuild, before demolishing it afterward.

"Why not use what's already there?

"It's just nutty."

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- The Press

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