All 23 Arts Centre heritage buildings received significant damage in the earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks, and all have been issued with a red “Unsafe” placard.
As a result of the magnitude of this damage, the Arts Centre Trust Board— the body charged with ensuring this iconic precinct is preserved and protected in perpetuity— has taken the unprecedented step of closing the site for an indeterminate period to allow for remediation work and seismic strengthening to all buildings. This work is likely to take several years.
The Trust Board has initiated this closure only after particular consideration of the significant impact this will have on the many businesses and worthy organisations that have been associated with this site for a large number of years.
The Board has been reluctant to take these measures. However, the overriding considerations of: public safety (current and future); uncertainty over the full extent of repair that is required; uncertainty about the total amount of funds available (for both restoration and strengthening work); and the ultimate need to prioritise funds toward those buildings with the most important heritage values has meant that the Board had little choice than to elect total closure for all buildings deemed unfit for occupation. This determination recognises that some buildings— while suffering less damage than others— could still create a potential hazard either for occupants or restoration workers operating in the immediate proximity.
The site closure will also allow remediation work to proceed at the greatest pace possible, which will be of significant benefit to both the Arts Centre and the community at large.
Meantime, the Arts Centre site is considered unsafe to enter and remains cordoned off with access restricted to those persons working on stabilising the buildings under the direction of the consulting engineers.
Canterbury Cheesemongers continue to operate from the Registry Additions Building at 301 Montreal Street. www.cheesemongers.co.nz
IN THE NEWS