Restoration of Lyttelton classic complete
The restoration of a significant heritage building in Lyttelton after damage in the February 2011 earthquake has been a collaborative effort between the owners of the old Lyttelton Harbour Board building, the Christchurch City Council, and a range of local contractors, all keen to see the preservation of the township’s maritime history.
The old Harbour Board building, on its prominent site at the corner of Oxford Street and Norwich Quay, was damaged in February 2011, after the local Donaldson brothers and their company Water Qual Ltd purchased it following the September 2010 earthquake.
“We never dreamed it would be earthquake damaged again in February,” says Water Qual director Aaron Donaldson.
“We did have insurance on the building, but increased costs of retaining heritage features plus huge price increases since settling the claim has proved challenging.
“We engaged architects who provided us with several concept drawings, but none of these had the ‘wow’ factor to warrant pushing ahead. We presented the best of these to council, but the Historic Places covenant required more sympathetic design to retain the Port’s historic link.”
This led to several meetings with Christchurch City Council heritage team leader Brendon Smyth, who provided the brothers with a sketch concept that gained immediate acceptance and formed the basis of what has now been built. “Brendon has been a great help to us,” Aaron says.
“Full credit to the council for a financial grant and having staff who worked with us to save what we could of the building, and restore the rest of it in keeping with its original design.”
With both of the Harbour Board building’s street frontages on a state highway accessing Lyttelton Port, the demolition of the building’s second storey was directed by Civil Defence in 2011.
Two years later, Water Qual had worked with nine insurance assessors to finally get a settlement the brothers were happy with.
“These insurance assessors were all temporary staff who each went over the same background detail and each floated away after making huge promises and getting our hopes up,” Aaron says. “It was a living hell, with days of wasted time and ridiculous low early offers.”
On the upside, and with Brendon’s support, Water Qual petitioned the Council for a heritage grant, to allow for the retention of the ornate brick and plaster facade on the ground floor of the Venetian Gothic style building, while also ensuring its future protection and ongoing use. Christchurch City Council provided a grant of $290,000 plus GST to save the 1880’s façade.
“We’ve got a new steel portal framework with concrete bracing sections and concrete floors behind that façade for it to be fully supported and achieve 100% of code,” Aaron says.
“The new upper storey is lightweight construction, and the parapets and window eyebrows are polystyrene, fixed on with glue. It looks like heavy stone, but it’s not.”
Water Qual used local contractors wherever possible. Brick restoration specialist Goldfield Stone of Ferrymead completed the facade restoration, while the project’s main contractor was Gary Mason Ltd.
Stark Bros of Lyttelton provided all the project’s lifting and trucking services, while local Marinetec Engineering and Construction did the steelwork.
The two-year construction process is now complete, and the old Harbour Board building is now tenanted by new to Lyttelton Asian fusion restaurant SUPER, plus local business Leon White Design, as well as existing tenants Black Cat Cruises, Structex, MPI, and Environment Canterbury’s Harbourmaster’s Office.