Every floor in Auckland's historic Civic Administration Building is being torn up and replaced, according to its developer.
The sound of pneumatic drills and jackhammers pierce the air around the foot of the ex-Auckland Council headquarters fronting Aotea Square in the largest current city conversion of a building from offices to apartments.
Building owner John Love of Love and Co. said: "It's a steel-framed building and all 19 levels of concrete floors need to be removed. They were just not thick enough."
So 6cm floors are being ripped out and replaced by 15cm thick floors in the massive project which started in August last year, jump platforms established to hold skips which are filled with the concrete and then craned to the ground.
Existing floors from level 19 down to level 13 had been removed by early November and new floors had been laid from level 19 down to 16, Love said.
Extensive asbestos throughout the building is another challenge: "It's been removed from levels 19 down to 12 so far. It was far more extensive than anyone had envisaged. People thought much had been removed but it was right throughout. We'll be down to ground with that by next March."
In 2014, the council gradually left the block for 135 Albert St where it has new headquarters. That left the existing building empty.
Around 2012, the then-council chief executive, Doug McKay, said the $93m cost of refurbishing the block for the 450 staff in it was not economic.
Demolition was an option, he said.
Last year, Allan Young, Panuku's development director, said: "The cost of removing asbestos from the building, preserving heritage features consistent with a category A heritage status, and intensifying the land with housing and commercial spaces will be extremely costly so we are pleased that we were able to find a partner willing to take on this important work adjacent to Auckland's most significant civic space."
Love said this month: "Construction is well on track, irrespective of the challenges but having someone like Naylor Love on board - they have the capacity and ability to keep things moving."
Naylor Love is operating from teal Portacom offices on Aotea Square, with roof-top solar panels to partly power its operations.
Building work began on The Cab last August when the contractors arrived on the site and Love said before that, extensive designing, resource consenting, tendering and pre-sales processes were under way.
Of the 118 new apartments planned to be build inside the ex-council building's frame, 10 per cent deposits had been taken on 83 units by early November, comprising 67 per cent of the block, he said.
"We're very happy with the sales. We've got a good balance of owner-occupiers who have bought, generally these places won't be rented out."
Project completion is forecast for December 2021 "and hopefully people will start to move in before Christmas next year", Love said.
Some apartments have decks, being reinstated on one face of the building and measuring 1m x 8m.
One-bedroom apartments of 56sq m pre-sold for around $700,000 up to the entire top floor 19th storey penthouse, for sale, for $15m, he said.
That place has an open courtyard with rooms arranged around the outside and the apartment will be 500sq m.
"The skygarden apartment's roof is open in the middle and it's unlike anything in Australasia," Love said.
Three-bedroom 115sq m places have been pre-sold for $1.5m, he said.
The massive changes to the structure will result in "basically a new building except for the steel which originally came from Japan and is very high quality."
But it hasn't just been the above-ground works going on in the last year. A 180-space carpark has also been excavated below and alongside the building near the entrance to the Civic Car Park off Mayoral Dr.
All up, Love has plans for a much larger site than just The Cab: new buildings are planned to rise alongside the apartments on a much bigger half-hectare site.
"All up, It will add about $1b of value to the city," Love said, forecasting completion of the entire project by around 2024 - just in time for the completion of the city's $4.4b City Rail Link and the Aotea Station near The Cab.