Wellington City Council spends $77k to save 'ugly' awning from being torn down – Stuff.co.nz


CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington City Council has spent $77,000 trying to save the corroded awning attached to Aviation House on Featherston St in central Wellington from being pulled down.

Almost $80,000 of Wellington ratepayers’ money has been spent trying to save a street awning in the central city that one of the country’s foremost architects has described as “crude” and “ugly”.

In May, the owner of Aviation House in Featherston St – rich-lister Eyal Aharoni’s Prime Property – wanted to tear down the building’s verandah, which shelters the entrance to the Featherston Bar & Grill.

The awning was added to the heritage-listed building in the 1980s but was damaged in the earthquakes that shook Wellington in July and August 2013, and has since fallen further into corrosion and disrepair. 

One of the country's foremost architects has described the awning as "crude and utilitarian".

CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

One of the country’s foremost architects has described the awning as “crude and utilitarian”.

But Wellington City Council declined Prime Property’s non-notified resource consent, claiming the removal of the verandah would be a bad outcome for pedestrians.

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That saw the case end up in the Environment Court, which ruled this month that the verandah can come down. Another canopy on the Johnston St side of the building is ordered to stay. 

Parts of the awning have already been removed as it falls into disrepair.

CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Parts of the awning have already been removed as it falls into disrepair.

In the Environment Court’s written decision, Wellington architect Roger Walker – on behalf of Prime Property – labelled the awning “crude and utilitarian”, pointing out that it “visually detracts from the host building”.

In laymans terms, the awning  was “ugly”, he said in the decision. 

Aharoni, a former Israeli Army major reportedly worth $70m, told The Dominion Post the canopy was ugly. It did not suit the building and interfered with its elegant facade, he added.

Aviation House owners Eyal Aharoni says he is baffled the council "wasted" ratepayers' money trying to keep the awning ...

FAIRFAX NZ

Aviation House owners Eyal Aharoni says he is baffled the council “wasted” ratepayers’ money trying to keep the awning from being torn down.

A canopy was never part of the original 1937 construction and Aharoni was disappointed that the Johnston St awning had to stay. 

The case had cost him about $80,000 – a figure nearly matched by the council, which spent $77,000.

Neither side got what they wanted and the case had been a “total waste of everyone’s money” including ratepayers, Aharoni said.

Aviation House was damaged and Featherston St closed after earthquakes shook Wellington in July and August 2013.

FAIRFAX NZ

Aviation House was damaged and Featherston St closed after earthquakes shook Wellington in July and August 2013.

He was baffled by the council pursuing the case and highlighted the irony that he would likely be rejected if he tried to get resource consent to build a new canopy. 

Warren Ulusele, the council’s city planning manager, said the council was not happy with the decision, which made it more difficult to implement its push for Wellington to be a “walking city”.

“It is not just the specific case at issue here but also the broader principle of reinforcing Wellington’s reputation as a walkable city through improving the walking environment within heavily pedestrianised areas.”

Shattered glass fell from Aviation House during the August 2013 earthquake that closed down Featherston St.

FAIRFAX NZ

Shattered glass fell from Aviation House during the August 2013 earthquake that closed down Featherston St.

In the capital, with its wet and windy climate, keeping existing pedestrian cover on buildings was a key part of the walkable city strategy provided for in the district plan, Ulusele said.

The strategy only applied to certain streets including Featherston St, which was used by about 18,000 pedestrians per day.    

The verandah was built in 1983 and 1984 and was already in place when Aviation House was included on the district plan heritage list.

Window panes popped out of the Dominion Farmers Institute Building in the July 2013 earthquake that closed down ...

FAIRFAX NZ

Window panes popped out of the Dominion Farmers Institute Building in the July 2013 earthquake that closed down Featherston St.

Ulusele said council officers were working through the decision to better understand its ramifications but were not intent on getting a new canopy built.

Both Aharoni and the council are considering appealing the decision.


 – Stuff

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