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Opening date set for iconic Blackwell’s Department Store

Opening date set for iconic Blackwell’s Department Store

At last there’s an answer to Kaiapoi’s most-asked question: “When will Blackwell’s be rebuilt?” The new, contemporary version of the town’s iconic department store will be open by September 2013.

The building’s 68 screw piles were drilled in this week, with partial demolition of existing buildings on the site completed earlier. The site is now ready for shear end wall foundations to be laid.

Blackwell’s, established in 1871, is one of the oldest department stores in New Zealand. The new store will open on or near Blackwell’s 141st anniversary.

The 7.1 quake on 4 September 2010 quake damaged the front, 1921 part of the building, including its iconic logo. This part was demolished the same day for safety reasons. The business operated from three separate locations until it could return to what remained of the building at the corner of Raven Quay and Williams St. Although trade has been affected, all Blackwell’s staff have retained their jobs since the 2010 quake.

Chartered Professional Engineer Warren Lewis from Christchurch firm Lewis & Barrow says the building has been designed for all up-to-the-minute design codes, Government guidelines, and the Structural Engineering Society New Zealand design guidelines. The new building will provide extra strength to the existing single-storey buildings so they could be brought up to 100% of the strength of a new building.

Warren Lewis says the building has been detailed to seismic loads that are 3x present design loads, to resist an earthquake with a return period in excess of 6000 years.

Brothers Michael and Andrew Blackwell, the fifth generation of Blackwells to manage the store, worked with Christchurch architects Wilkie + Bruce on a design retaining the grace of the old building, but with a contemporary feel. There will be a larger floor area and a café. The first floor will provide much-needed commercial floor space, with excellent Kaiapoi River views.

Christchurch-based Bushnell Builders has been chosen for the build.

Michael says over the past two years he’s been approached almost daily by people wanting to know when the rebuild will begin. There have been many complex geotechnical, engineering, consent and insurance issues to work through.

“It’s very exciting now to see rapid progress day by day, and to finally begin our store’s redevelopment two long years after September 2010.

“It’s a time we would like to forget, but it’s the lessons learnt from this time that make us more resilient.”

Andrew says: “This will be a nice, modern building that will still look contemporary in 50 years. We want it to have a unique feeling and atmosphere, and provide some really memorable shopping.

“Since the concept plans were made public a year ago, the café idea in particular has gained huge public support and interest.”

Michael stresses it will be business as usual at Blackwell’s this Christmas during the rebuild.

“We will continue to trade from the unaffected part of the store, offering a good range of products from all our departments, so please come down to see the building work in progress, and our great range in-store at the same time.”


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