Earthquake damage at a retirement village has forced the company to demolish an entire block of 40 units.

The Figaro Apartments at Malvina Major Retirement Village in Johnsonville had to be evacuated after last week's quake, and now Ryman Healthcare has decided the damage is too bad to repair.

Corporate affairs manager David King said it would take about 18 months to demolish and rebuild. Residents will be rehomed.

"We're meeting with our contractors next week, and the reason we're pushing on with it is we want to give our residents certainty about what's happening.

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"This is really tough on them. Even though we've provided them with alternative apartments, this is still a lot of upheaval for them, and we're really conscious of that."

The Christchurch-based company is bringing in lessons learned in the Canterbury quakes. King said the first priority was safety, then giving residents as much certainty as possible.

"They had to leave at very short notice, so we're very conscious of that. We got out the things that they needed immediately, and then we photographed the rest of their stuff and put it into storage.

"So they can then just pick what they want out of storage and we'll get it for them. Again, we learned that after the Christchurch quake."

Some residents will get apartments in the new Bob Scott retirement village in Petone, and others will be get accommodation elsewhere.

Work started today on demolishing 61 Molesworth St. Contractors are tearing down an annexe in preparation for pulling down the nine-storey office building.