An application has been filed to demolish an iconic Wellington watering hole after the city council took court action to take possession of the building and carry out earthquake strengthening work.
The former Tramway Hotel was built in 1899 in Mt Cook and is listed with Wellington City Council (WCC) as a heritage building.
Situated on the corner of Adelaide Rd and Drummond St, the two storey masonry building is a rare surviving example of a typical late Victorian hotel.
Its owner Dennis Parbhu is facing a cost of more than $6 million to strengthen it, following which the building would only be worth about $2.5 million.
"The financial option of strengthening the building is therefore grossly uneconomic", the demolition application said.
The building is earthquake-prone, which means it's less than 34 per cent of the New Building Standard (NBS).
The completion deadline for seismic work was almost seven years ago in December 2013.
But it's taken until very recently for WCC to take regulatory action on the missed deadline.
Acting Chief Infrastructure Officer Mike Mendonça said the council has been working with the owner for a significant period of time to try to encourage remediation.
"However, due to the lack of progress, and the time that has passed since the deadline to complete the work, the council has formed the view it is necessary to apply to the District Court for orders allowing the council to remediate the building itself."
If the order is granted and the council undertakes the work, the owner would be liable for those costs.
A hearing date is yet to be set.
The demolition application said alternatives have been considered including renovations to increase the floor area of the building and therefore its economic viability.
In 2017 Parbhu sent WCC plans to build a bigger hotel but that was not progressed after what he considered to be unlikely support from heritage officers.
He told the Herald his prime goal was to preserve the building, but he needed to break even and that meant adding to the existing structure.
Parbhu was reluctant to comment any further while the demolition application was before council.
Another option he has considered is selling the building for land value, but that has also proved unsuccessful because of heritage restrictions.
The demolition documents said the owner was in the dilemma of having to meet structural and safety requirements while not being able to have a reasonable economic use for the building.
"There is an unquestionable quandary which must be resolved. There cannot be a compulsion on council to force an applicant to carry our works which they do not have the means to do."
A previous report investigated strengthening the building to 70 per cent NBS but estimated those costs would likely exceed the cost to demolish it and build new.
It said even if the building was strengthened to this standard, it would still be prone to damage in a moderate to significant earthquake due to the nature of its unreinforced masonry structure.
The building was also considered to have limited functionality regardless of the strengthening scheme due to its current layout and shape.
Building resilience heritage portfolio leader councillor Iona Pannett said she couldn't comment on the case because it was before the courts.
But speaking generally, she said the council's approach was to work constructively with owners.
"Obviously owners do have property rights in this country, and we want good outcomes for the city as well, so our preference is not to spend ratepayers' money to come in with a big stick to take enforcement."
Pannett said there were more than 500 earthquake-prone buildings in the city and she acknowledged some owners were struggling to find an economic solution to pay for strengthening.
Safety, heritage, and owner's ability to pay was a difficult balance, she said.
"I don't think you can say that one thing takes precedence, we're trying to balance all those things in a reasonable manner but it's not easy."
Mendonça said the demolition application for 114 Adelaide Rd would be considered through the normal resource consent process, would be publicly notified, and heard by an independent commissioner.
A hearing date is yet to be set.