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Hospitality businesses worry about future after Wellington building vacated over quake risk


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More than 100 office workers have vacated the Meridian Building on Wellington’s waterfront over earthquake safety issues.

Meridan Energy Wellington.

Meridan Energy Wellington.
Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The building was designed to be 100 percent or above the New Building Standard but its owner, Stride Property Group, says early indications of an ongoing assessment are that the building may be below 34 percent of the New Building Standard.

Stride said the building, which was opened in 2007, performed very well in major previous earthquakes including the 2013 Seddon earthquake and the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake.

But the company recently learned that the property may not be up to safety standards.

“Investigations during 2021 identified that there have been significant learnings and advancements as a result of recent earthquake events, particularly in relation to geotechnical (ground) conditions in Wellington. As a result of these learnings we have been advised by our consultants that the property may not perform in a seismic event in the way previously anticipated,” it said in a statement.

Further investigations to determine the seismic rating of the building are ongoing.

In the meantime, some tenants have decided to vacate, including Meridian, which has sent its 180 staff home.

“While waiting on final results of the assessment, as a precaution, Meridian advised their people to work from home while they get an alternate office space up and running,” a spokesperson said.

Hospitality businesses on the ground floor were open for business, with cafes and restaurants busy yesterday.

But some owners were anxious about the building’s future and what seismic issues could mean for their businesses.

Hot! Like A Mexican owner Andres Pimentel wanted more clarity.

“What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen to us down here? It’s not the future of the building; it’s the future of my business,” he said.

Pimentel estimated office workers from upstairs make up 15-20 percent of his customers so they would be missed.

Another business owner, who did not wish to be identified, was emotional amid the uncertainty and wept as they described their worse fear: That the building would be demolished and the business forced to relocate.

Stride is currently assessing remediation options for the property and intends to provide an update later in the year when the seismic assessment has been completed.

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