Work starts in the next two weeks to secure the unreinforced masonry (brick) parapets and facades, before the main refurbishment starts later in the year.
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester says this is a pivotal moment for Wellington.
“The Town Hall has been at the centre of the city’s civic and cultural life for generations. Most of us have a favourite memory of a concert or event - or even a Council meeting - in the Town Hall. This week we are starting the three-year journey to bring back the Town Hall.”
The building has been closed since 2013 and is due to be reopened in 2021 as a joint facility between Wellington City Council, Victoria University’s New Zealand School of Music and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
The Mayor says the Town Hall is only one of a number of heritage buildings around the CBD that require work to make sure the public is protected from the risk of falling masonry in an earthquake.
“The Council is setting an example by reinforcing our own buildings. We have worked hard with building owners to tackle the issue of unreinforced masonry around the city and this has been particularly beneficial for heritage buildings.”
This follows a decision by the Minister for Building and Construction after the Kaikōura earthquake, to take action to secure unreinforced masonry on buildings in busy, high-traffic areas that are vulnerable in an earthquake.
The Council’s Chief City Planner, David Chick, says over the next two weeks the public will notice timber hoardings being erected along the Town Hall’s Wakefield Street and Civic Square frontages.
“This is a sizeable project and public safety is paramount. We have taken all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of passing pedestrians and cars, and part of that means some loss of parking and diversions for pedestrians.”
Changes to the area around the Town Hall
- The lane between the Town Hall and the Michael Fowler Centre will be closed to allow the strengthening work to be done. Pedestrians will be redirected.
- Wakefield Street will remain open. There will be the temporary loss of some short term car parks. Arrangements for traffic management are being finalised and will be reviewed in about six months’ time.
- The nearby Michael Fowler Centre car park will close in about four to six weeks’ time, for about 18 months. A prefabricated building will be located in the car park as a temporary rehearsal studio for the Royal New Zealand Ballet. The ballet company will move out of the St James Theatre to make way for earthquake strengthening work which is scheduled to start in May.
The main construction work on the Town Hall is due to start in late 2018 after a main contractor is selected. The Council is seeking registrations of interest for a main contractor.