Wellington's historic Farmers department store on Cuba St has been given a new lease on life, after languishing at less than 5 per cent of the New Building Standard (NBS).
Willis Bond has spent $60 million redeveloping the building and the two neighbouring ones into 7,000 square metres of refurbished character office and retail space.
The location will become the new home of Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) after two separate earthquakes damaged its original building and then the one it moved into after that.
The Farmers building has been brought up to at least 100 per cent NBS - a massive undertaking after initially rating at less than 5 per cent.
It has involved new piling, strengthening of the heritage façade, and tying all three buildings together using concrete and steel.
Original character features from the Farmers building have been retained, including areas of pressed tin ceiling panels, matai wooden flooring, and cast-iron columns.
Willis Bond director David McGuinness said the cost of strengthening the building in rough terms is equivalent to building a new one.
"But when you've got a heritage building like that, which is quite simply beautiful, and the ability to reinvigorate it, plus tenants also like those heritage features and the character of the area, then you're happy to spend what you might on a new building to salvage something that's older.
"It's an expensive exercise, there's no two ways about it, but if you do it properly, the value of the property and the attractiveness will increase dramatically and theoretically you'll get a reasonable return on the investment."
McGuinness said the extent to which buildings measured up against the NBS was one of the primary issues for prospective tenants who were now "demanding" north of a 70 per cent rating.
The issue has become particularly prominent following the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake.
But, even before that, GWRC was all too familiar with earthquake risks to commercial buildings in Wellington.
The 2013 Seddon earthquake impacted the council's offices at Pringle House, opposite the Michael Fowler Centre in central Wellington.
Council chairman Daran Ponter said the problem was the building was actually effectively comprised of two buildings side by side.
"The two buildings had smacked against each other in the earthquake, ripped out all the pipe work between them, and all the water had effectively flowed between the buildings onto everyone's computer equipment and throughout the whole building."
Upon further investigation the building was found to be earthquake prone, meaning it was less than 34 per cent NBS.
The council then moved to Shed 39 on Wellington's waterfront.
Following the 2016 Kaikōura Earthquake the integrity of the building remained intact, but superficial damage made the bottom floor unusable.
"The concrete had all cracked and was significantly uneven, Ponter said.
"It's taken three years to get that building back to standard, ironically it is now fully habitable at the time we're moving to our new building on Cuba St."
Ponter hoped the Cuba precinct would benefit economically from having council staff under one roof for the first time in five years.
"You get 350 plus staff, fully occupied, five days a week in that local precinct- it should be a real boom for retailers and restaurants."