Demolition of quake-hit hotel to take 10 months

8:17 pm on 25 May 2011

Fletcher Construction has won the tender to demolish the earthquake-damaged Hotel Grand Chancellor in central Christchurch, which is expected to take about 10 months.

It is New Zealand's largest demolition project to date and the company expects to be able to bring down Christchurch's tallest building to what it describes as a safe level within six months.

Since the quake on 22 February, a large area around the 26-storey hotel has been cordoned off due to concerns that it will collapse.

The building's south-east concrete wall dropped 70 centimetres in the force of the 6.3-magnitude quake and concrete was poured around it to support the broken wall.

Fletcher Construction chief executive Mark Binns told Checkpoint on Wednesday that explosives will not be used, due to the risk to surrounding buildings, and will instead dismantle the hotel floor by floor.

"The car park will be worked on by diggers with long arms and then we'll have a 250-tonne mobile crane start on the roof cutting things into sections and taking them down bit by bit."

It is understood four tenders were received for the demolition of the hotel.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said of the 900 buildings that need to be demolished, about 250 have been brought down.

The Government commissioned a report by the US Army Corps of Engineers a month after the quake which warned that the demolition could damage a neighbouring hotel.

The US report, released to Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act, says that either conventional demolition or the use of explosives could result in severe damage or total loss of the All Seasons Hotel.

A spokesperson for the All Seasons Hotel, Peter Hook, says he understands the demolition will cause some damage in the area but until the work is done the future of his hotel and the wider Cashel Street precinct is uncertain.

A comics shop owner says he will probably have to abandon plans to reopen in the central city because of the time it will take to bring down the Grand Chancellor.

Tim Driver's Comics Compulsion is shut because it is too close to the hotel and says his insurance will run out before the demolition is complete.

Company intends to rebuild

The general manager of the company that owns the Grand Chancellor says it is good to have moved to the next stage, but it is still a sad day.

Frank Delli Cicchi says the hotel has come to be seen as a symbol of the progress in rebuilding Christchurch and is keen to see work start as soon as possible.

The company intends to rebuild in the city in the future, he says.

US expertise requested after quake

The Government also requested information on the possible demolition of 11 other prominent high-rise and mid-level buildings - none of which have been issued with demolition notices.

These included the Westpac building, Clarendon Towers, the BNZ building in Cathedral Square and Crowne Plaza on Victoria Square.

The report and research was carried out in the first week of April, relatively soon after the quake, when the buildings' fate may not have been clear.

The team of seven experts spent a week conducting their assessment and were asked to comment on specific approaches to the demolition of particular buildings.

It was not commenting on the need to demolish buildings, nor whether they could be repaired.