The owners of the Thain's building at 1 Victoria Ave have applied for resource consent to demolish it but say they are only intending to sell the property, not bulldoze it.
The building on the corner of Victoria Ave and Taupo Quay is owned by Karantze Holdings, a family company whose partners live in Napier. Their agent for the application to Whanganui District Council is Noel Mouldey, of The Building Design Company.
"The Karantze family wish to make it clear from the outset that while they are seeking the right to demolish this prominent local building, they remain sympathetic to Wanganui's 'built heritage' and understanding of the council's and the community's desire to see older buildings of significance retained for Wanganui's benefit," Mouldey said in the resource consent application.
However, retaining the building was not economically feasible or within the owners' means. The cost of seismic strengthening had been estimated at more than $1 million and, with a contingency built in, would be more like $1.2m.
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The Thain's building is a Class B heritage building in the Whanganui District Plan but has no national heritage status. The three-storey unreinforced masonry building is severely earthquake-prone at 5 per cent of new building standard (NBS) and the ground floor was flooded in the June 2015 floods.
Mr Mouldey said while the location of the building could be expected to attract tenants, it did not meet current needs and security for commercial enterprises.
"Not all 'old' buildings can be saved - at least not by their owners. If the council and/or the community require it to be retained, then the council or the community must either purchase the property or compensate the owners the full cost of seismic strengthening and refurbishment.
"An approval for demolition will undeniably enhance the family's prospects of selling the property. A successful sale will allow the family to escape the financial misfortune that continued ownership will inevitably cause them, whereas a new owner, equipped with prior formal approval, will be able to proceed with purchase and redevelopment of the site for the benefit of all - including the community.
"The owner will not demolish the building but will include resource consent for demolition with sale of the property."
Details about the consent application are available at the Whanganui District Council offices and on its website www.whanganui.govt.nz.
Submissions on the application close at 4pm on Tuesday, May 22.