Council holds out on church repair bid

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 13/08/2014

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City councillors are holding off giving the Anglican Church a grant to fix an old school building until they get more information about what its plans are for the other historic buildings it owns, including the Cathedral.

The Anglican Church Property Trust has applied to the council for up to $855,000 in funding to help it repair and upgrade the single-storey stone classroom block at St Michael's School, which dates back to 1913.

The council's community committee yesterday decided to hold off making a decision on whether to award the grant till it has met with the trust to discuss how it plans to deal with the other heritage buildings it owns.

Committee chairman Cr Yani Johanson said he was uncomfortable approving the grant when there was still so much uncertainty around what the Anglican Church planned to do with its other heritage buildings.

"It is timely we meet with them so we can understand what they are committed to doing," said Johanson.

Cr Andrew Turner questioned why the church needed the council's financial help to repair the classroom block given it had significant resources at its disposal.

"I'm finding it quite difficult to look at this in exclusion given its ownership," Turner admitted as he backed Johanson's push for a meeting with the Church Property Trust.

A spokesman for the Church Property Trust said it respected the committee's decision and would be happy to brief the councillors on its plans, as the trust had done in the past.

The stone classroom block is part of a cluster of heritage buildings on the corner of Durham St South, Oxford Tce and Tuam St that includes the Church of St Michael's and All Angels, the St Michael's School Hall building, and Tudor House (also known as Tiffany's).

The classroom had insurance cover of $905,000 but the cost of repairing and strengthening it has been estimated at $1.8 million.

If the council decides to help the Church Property Trust with the buildings repair costs, the money will come from a special fund the council set up after the quakes to help save landmark heritage buildings in the central city.

Yesterday the community committee decided to take up to $900,000 from that fund and give it to the owners of Victoria Mansions to help them pay for a seismic upgrade of their art deco building.

Victoria Mansions was built in 1935 and sits behind the newly restored Victoria Clock Tower. The five-storey building, designed in the art deco Moderne style, dates back to 1935. It suffered significant damage in the quakes and has been assessed as 18 to 28 per cent of New Build Standard (NBS). To raise it above earthquake-prone status, it needs a substantial and complex seismic upgrade, which is expected to cost about $10m.

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- The Press

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