Shops to be bowled

By Amy McGillivray


A row of eight stores in central Tauranga will be demolished and rebuilt after their owner found earthquake strengthening "a complete waste of time".

Tauranga property owner Rob Ofsoski, who owns the stores between 71 and 89 Devonport Rd, spent $90,000 earthquake-proofing his building at 77 Devonport Rd about a year ago.

He decided to fix the one building as a trial.

"We got in and did it early because I needed to know what the actual cost of doing a building was," he told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

The building, now occupied by Mag Addiction and Traks Music, is among the latest nine buildings Tauranga City Council has signed off and taken off the earthquake-prone buildings register.

Six other buildings in the city have already been demolished and 83 remain on the council's earthquake-prone buildings register.

But Mr Ofsoski said he would not be fixing any more of his buildings. Instead the row of eight stores will be demolished and rebuilt.

"You've still got an old building. You still have leaks, you still have plumbing problems, you still have electrical problems," he said. "Because of the age of some of the buildings, they won't insure them at all."

He hoped to have the buildings demolished just after Christmas next year.

New buildings would be built and leased to retailers.

The Child, Youth and Family building, which Mr Ofsoski also owns, was likely to escape the wrecking ball because it had been renovated recently.

The Building Act 2004 requires all territorial authorities to adopt policies on earthquake-prone buildings within their districts. The Tauranga City Council adopted its policy in March 2006.

Mr Ofsoski said having to strengthen his buildings was "a bloody nuisance" but it had to be done.

It was always going to happen, but since Christchurch the issue had been taken much more seriously, he said.

"It's all about safety for people working in all the shops and I don't think you can compromise on that.

"I don't like having to do it but you've got no choice. It's like driving down the road with tyres that are bald."

Bayleys commercial agent Rob Pinny had met Mr Ofsoski to decide a course of action.

A lot of the older buildings were beyond repair, he said.

"Those old early-1900s buildings, they are structurally unsound anyway so they've got to come down.

"It's just old, clay brick that's just been plastered over and it will break and fall on people. A lot of it you can't secure."

Tony Lawrence, property manager at Focus on Property, agreed it was often better to start over.

"If you strengthen an old building, it's still an old building. In many cases, you are better to demolish and replace it because you will get better rentals, which will help pay for the redevelopment."

He manages the Willow St building that Robert Harris and Pack & Send occupy. Its previous owner had the building strengthened and the council had now signed it off.

Single-level, reasonably light buildings typically cost about $115,000 to earthquake-proof, he said.

The strength of buildings was becoming increasingly problematic as tenants, banks and insurance companies were insisting buildings be 67 per cent as strong as the current building code required, while the Government demanded only 33 per cent.

Tauranga City Council building services manager Rob Wiekman said building owners could choose to remove the danger by strengthening or demolition.

"Ten years to either strengthen or demolish is reasonable. We've got to think about the people that work in those buildings and the people that visit those buildings."

The Grey St building, home to Mansworld and Hot Ginger, was currently being strengthened. The tenants expected to move back within the next two weeks.


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