Saturday, April 13, 2024

Christchurch’s grand old dame gets multimillion-dollar makeover

A multimillion-dollar project to restore and strengthen one of Christchurch’s grand old dames – the Old Municipal Chambers building – is about to get under way.

Box 112 is carrying out the restoration work on the Christchurch City Council-owned building on the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Oxford Terrace, under the direction of the City of Christchurch Trust.

The charitable trust was granted a 50-year lease on the quake-damaged building last year in an agreement with the Council aimed at ensuring it was fully restored.

Did you know?
  • The Old Municipal Chambers opened in 1887.
  • It is listed as highly significant in the Christchurch District Plan and is a New Zealand Historic Places Trust Category One heritage building.
  • It was the first Queen Anne-style building in the country and the first, and only remaining, permanent, purpose-built civic offices for Christchurch City Council.
  • It functioned as the centre of local government in Christchurch until 1924.

Prior to the earthquakes it operated as Our City O-Tautahi.

Under the lease agreement Box 112 – a private company which has restored a number of other significant heritage buildings around Christchurch – will strengthen and refurbish the building. Council will provide up to $10 million for the work.

Box 112 director, Sam Rofe says the Old Municipal Chambers is a ‘lady in waiting’, with lots of beautiful decorative features that will be painstakingly removed, restored and then reinstated as part of the building’s restoration.

“The Council has done a tremendous job over the past 10 years in protecting the building from any further deterioration and we’re excited to get in there and start the restoration process,’’ Mr Rofe says.

Most of the restoration work will happen outside the public’s gaze as the building will be entirely sheathed in plastic to protect it against the elements and to allow work to continue regardless of the weather.

The Old Municipal Chambers will be strengthened from the inside out and the external steel framing that has been propping the building up since the earthquakes will be one of the last things to be removed.

Christchurch City Council Citizens and Community Principal Advisor, Brent Smith says the prime location of the Old Municipal Chambers makes it one of Christchurch’s most prominent heritage buildings and it is great to see work on its restoration starting.

“Box 112 has breathed new life back into a number of Christchurch’s treasured heritage buildings over the past few years and we can’t wait to see the end results of their work on the Old Municipal Chambers. It will be fantastic to see this beautiful building restored to its former grandeur,’’ Mr Smith says.

The restoration and strengthening of the Old Municipal Chambers building is expected to take two years to complete.


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