CUBA PRECINCT

PROJECT TYPE: HERITAGE

USE: COMMERCIAL AND RETAIL

LOCATION: CUBA STREET, WELLINGTON

CLIENT: WILLIS BOND AND GWRC

ARCHITECTS: ATHFIELD ARCHITECTS

PROJECT TIMEFRAME: 2018-2020

The Cuba Precinct, formerly the old Farmers department store and neighbouring buildings, forms the second phase of a huge regeneration project covering a one-hectare block north from 106 Cuba Street to Dixon Street and west to Victoria Street.

The store, which had fallen to less than 5 per cent of the New Building Standard (NBS), has been brought up to at least 100 per cent NBS as a result of new piling, strengthening of the heritage façade, and tying all three buildings together with concrete and steel. Major temporary works throughout the demolition and strengthening ensured both the safety of the workers and the buildings’ structural integrity.

The three buildings have delivered 6000m2 of office space and over 1000m2 of retail space. The office space, one of the city’s largest open plan areas, is the new home of the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC).

The buildings’ heritage fabric was salvaged, repaired and incorporated into the final design. The Farmers façade had all its paint removed, plastering restored, windows repaired and cracked tiles replaced to bring it back to how it once looked in the early 1900s. Custom-made tiles were handmade locally in Khandallah, Wellington.

Inside, the rimu flooring was salvaged and re-purposed as feature timber flooring and lobby wall linings for the fit-out. The pressed metal feature ceilings were removed, stripped of paint off-site and re-installed in selected areas.

The key challenge was integrating the new elements into 100-year-old buildings that weren’t always as described in old documents. The LTM management team and sub-contractors carefully worked their way through various challenges in a timely and cost-effective manner, despite the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown in March-April 2020.

That period was not wasted. Further planning with consultants, clients and sub-contractors ensured that when the lockdown ceased, the project hit the ground running. It was successfully handed over three weeks earlier than originally anticipated.