Strengthening work on the Wellington Town Hall, which was due to begin before Christmas, has been delayed till next year.
Wellington’s Town Hall complied with less that 33% of the new building standards introduced in 2009. The Town Hall sits on reclaimed land and is anchored on ageing, unreinforced piles. This combination can make the structure particularly unreliable in an earthquake. The councils plan to address this is to proceed in two stages; firstly, to secure the brickwork on the facade to meet standards created in the wake of the Kaikoura earthquake, and then secondly, to complete the main strengthening works and upgrades.
Wellington.scoop examines why work has been delayed again:
Work on the facade of the historic building began in May, and at that time the council said that the main strengthening and upgrade would start “later in 2018, once the brickwork is secure.” The council had also said in January that work would begin late this year.
But it didn’t happen. Strengthening has not yet started, and no contractor has yet been chosen.
The council’s project managers say they intended to appoint a contractor and start work in November.
“However the tender responses had a large number of questions that have required more work to address than allowed for. We are working constructively with a tenderer and now expect to appoint a contractor in the early part of 2019, and start work on site soon after.”
The Town Hall has been closed since 2013, and councillors have voted three times to strengthen it – most recently in the middle of last year. During Celia Wade-Brown’s term as mayor, she said strengthening would start in 2016 and the Town Hall would reopen in 2019. But the project went “on hold,” instead. Then the council said work would start in 2017 – no such luck.
When the work has been done, the strengthened Town Hall will be considerably changed. The main auditorium will have a new, stronger floor. A new basement under the main auditorium will provide public toilets and usable space.
Servicing storage and public facilities will be improved, including better loading facilities in the main auditorium with a second stage lift. The restored Town Hall pipe organ will be reinstalled.
The tiered Ilott Theatre will become a flat floor space suitable for standalone performances and a support space for the main auditorium.
The West Hall (between the Town Hall and the Municipal Office Building) will be rebuilt to provide access from Wakefield Street to Civic Square and a link to the adjacent building.
The Town Hall opened in 1904 and is one of the city’s most important heritage buildings. It is a listed heritage building in the District Plan and has a Heritage New Zealand Category One rating, meaning it has high cultural and heritage value for the city.
The upgraded Town Hall will be part of a national centre for musical excellence. The Council is collaborating on this project with Victoria’s New Zealand School of Music and the Zealand Symphony Orchestra.