Hard hats and hoardings will soon become a familiar sight at Tauranga City Council’s Willow Street location, with the demolition of its old civic building set to commence next month.
The site is being cleared to make way for a new civic precinct, although exactly what that will look like is still to be decided by the Commission.
Constructed in 1989, the building at 95 Willow Street has housed council’s Mayoral and Executive offices, Chambers, Customer Service Centre, Library, and other council services over the years.
With the building now fully-vacated and the adjoining bus interchange set to temporarily relocate to Durham Street, the demolition process will begin at the start of June and is expected to be completed by the end of September.
This morning, a blessing led by local kaumātua Tamati Tata took place in the building, clearing the way for new beginnings, before council officially handed over the keys to contractor LT McGuinness, who will lead the demolition project.
Commissioner Bill Wasley, who worked in the building as a council staff member when it was first built, says the demolition has been a long time coming.
“The building has been plagued by leaks for years, and in 2014, toxic black mould was discovered inside this building and the adjoining administration block that was demolished in 2017,” says Bill.
“The need to address these issues prompted the council at the time to explore what our future civic spaces could look like, and the role the area could play in reinvigorating our city’s heart.
“Sadly, no action was taken so the building has remained here until now, much of it empty.
“The time has finally come to say farewell to the old and make way for a new and exciting chapter for our civic precinct.”
Following extensive community consultation over the past two months and hearings held earlier this week, the Commission will now deliberate on the two proposed options for the civic precinct site which were outlined in the 2021-31 Long-term Plan Amendment. A final decision will be made next month.
Council’s preferred option is to implement the full refreshed masterplan, called Te Manawataki o Te Papa – ‘the heartbeat of Te Papa’, as part of a single-phase, staged development.
This would see the development of facilities such as a civic whare (a venue for Council and community meetings) and a museum and exhibition/events space, in addition to the library and community hub facility approved through the 2021-31 Long-term Plan (LTP).
General Manager of Central City Development Gareth Wallis says council has already committed to developing a library and community hub in its 2021-31 LTP, so no matter what decision the Commission makes in June, the Willow Street site needs to be prepared for that development now.
“The quicker we can get this site ready for redevelopment, the sooner we will see it transformed,” says Gareth.
He says hoardings are being erected around the site this week and the demolition will be done in stages over the next four months.
“We don’t anticipate the demolition will have any impact on vehicles moving through the area during this period, but access to some footpaths may be limited, so we ask people to take care when in the area.
“Given the nature of the project, noise levels will increase at times, but this will be minimised where possible.
“We want to thank the community for their patience and understanding while we undertake this necessary and important first step to restoring our city’s heart and creating a thriving and vibrant city centre.”