Forsyth Barr building may stay

MARC GREENHILL AND NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 04/08/2011
Buildings
STACY SQUIRES
TERMINAL HIGH RISE? The Forsyth Barr building, left, in Armagh St is likely to be saved while a question mark hangs over the PricewaterhouseCoopers building, right.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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One of Christchurch's tallest buildings appears to be safe from demolition.

The 17-storey Forsyth Barr building was badly damaged in the February 22 earthquake, with the collapse of a staircase cutting the exit route for some staff.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority said that the building was likely to remain, making it one of the few high-rise office blocks to survive the quake.

The inner-city Clarendon Tower, AMI House, Community House and DTZ building are being demolished, and the fate of the PricewaterhouseCoopers building in Armagh St has not been determined.

Lawyer Shaun Cottrell, a Forsyth Barr tenant when the February quake struck, could not say whether his firm would return to the building, on the corner of Colombo and Armagh streets, if it reopened.

The firm has relocated to Addington, but Cottrell had no concerns about working in a high-rise office block.

"There are a lot of benefits in being in that sort of building, being in town and being close together. They're a nice place to work," he said.

"It comes down to it being safe, at least to the extent you can get out, and I think anyone who was up [in the Forsyth Barr building] would never want to be trapped up in the air for three or four hours, wondering if they were going to get down again."

The possibility of height restrictions being imposed on new buildings in the central city has put the financial future of high rises in doubt.

Miles Middleton, who owns about 6 per cent of the office space in the central business district, including the 14-storey Westpac Tower in High St, said he would consider moving to Auckland if height restrictions were imposed.

Demolition work has started on his eight-storey DTZ building, on the corner of Cashel St and Oxford Tce.

Middleton had plans drawn up for a new building but did not know whether he would be able to rebuild on the same site.

"The issue we have is whether we can rebuild to eight levels and on the site because it's by the river."

He was concerned that if new buildings were restricted to six levels or less, he would lose money from his replacement insurance, which was meant to cover an eight-storey building.

"We are looking at properties in Auckland at the moment – let's put it that way."

He would rebuild in Christchurch if he could, he said.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said last week that investment interest in Christchurch, including from outside the city, was starting to "ramp up".

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"I think the plans that local investors have, augmented by the willingness of outside investors to come in, all paints a very positive picture for a city," he said.

DEMOLITION PLANS

Significant Christchurch heritage buildings have been earmarked for demolition by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

The former public library in Cambridge Tce, the former PGG building in Cashel St, the Richmond Methodist Church in Stanmore Rd and nine heritage buildings in High St have been identified for demolition.

Other significant buildings to be demolished include Community House in Hereford St and the Bus Exchange in Lichfield St.

From May 1 to August 2, the authority identified 40 buildings for demolition, 18 for partial demolition and 12 that need to be made safe.

- The Press

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