Tauranga City Council has abandoned completion of the troubled Harington Street Transport Hub carpark building and aims to recover as much of the $19m spent on the project already.
After a public-excluded council meeting today to consider the future of the building, Mayor Tenby Powell said independent expert advice showed the cost of addressing the structure's seismic resistance design deficiencies would be prohibitive.
Expert reports and the report to Council would remain confidential, with the council citing "commercial sensitivity and legal privilege reasons".
"As unpalatable as it is to abandon a project which has already cost $19 million, our expert advice makes it clear that the completion options available to us would simply be sending good money after bad," Powell said in a council media statement.
The cost to the community was not yet known but if the project went ahead, Powell said ratepayers and people paying parking fees would have to subsidise for years to come. How the Harington St site would be used in the future was still to be decided.
Powell said the cost of strengthening and completing the building would be significant, particularly when compared to the original $29 million budget approved by the Council in 2017.
"That would mean that even under the most favourable conditions, we would end up with an 'asset' which ratepayers and people paying parking fees would have to subsidise for years to come."
Council infrastructure general manager Nic Johansson said there would now be a pause to allow potential future uses of the Harington Street site to be evaluated.
"The existing structure cannot be used for purposes other than carparking, because of its sloping floors, but the basement and site could possibly contribute to a future development prospect," Johansson said.
He said it would be some time before the net cost to the community would be clear, as it was dependant on the outcomes of potential cost recovery processes and the future use of the site.
Johansson stressed that when it made the decision to undertake the project in 2017, the council was fully entitled to rely upon the professional expertise of the building designer and the design peer reviewer and could not have foreseen the design deficiency issues which had arisen.
The intent of the 550-carpark transport hub was to support city centre development and commercial viability and address an expected reduction in parking capacity, of about 600 carparks, resulting from expected city centre developments.
Construction of the transport hub started in June, 2018 and in May last year, the council was informed of a technical construction problem before there was a potential issue relating to the structure's seismic design strength revealed in July.
Work on the site was suspended last September while an engineering design review was undertaken. As a result of that review, it was confirmed the structure design did not meet the required standard of seismic resistance; and that structure and foundation strengthening would be required.
"The estimated costs and financial outcomes of all of the completion options indicate that there is no economically feasible way of remedying the structural design flaws of the building," Johansson said.
"Financial analysis is also very clear that the most prudent course, and the best way to limit losses for ratepayers, is to abandon completion of the building and take action to protect the interests of the community. We now have Council elected member support to get on with that job."
In deciding not to complete the transport hub, the council considered issues around future parking demand. If car parking demand returns to pre-Covid-19 levels and city centre developments, which reduce existing parking capacity proceed, the council look into the matter again.
Council unanimously adopted the recommendations before it and agreed to make the resolutions and meeting outcomes public.
- Supplied copy