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Our Environment: Issue 13 Summer 1997

Our Environment: Christchurch City Council's Environmental Newsletter

Revamp For 210 Tuam St

210 Tuam Street was officially opened as the Council's Parking Unit building in October. Guests were treated to an 'Edwardian afternoon tea' served in the thoroughly modern decor of the refurbished building.

The opening by Crs Carole Evans and Denis O'Rouke presented an opportunity to reflect, not only on the building's recent conservation and refurbishment, but its often colourful history.

Viewing the building today, it is difficult to imagine that 210 was twice notified for demolition by Council - first in 1991 and again in May 1995 - ironically on the eve of Heritage Week. Two months later Council resolved that a feasibility study be undertaken on the future use of this building. Taking a proactive stance Council confirmed in April 1996 that the building would be refurbished and the Parking Operations Unit was confirmed as the tenant.

With the continuing trend towards longer retail trading hours within the central city, the Parking Operations Unit has evolved as a seven day a week operation. Relocating the Parking Unit to 210 provided a 'win-win' situation. The Council was given the opportunity to demonstrate leadership in relation to the retention, restoration and viable reuse of a heritage building while providing improved customer service and staff accommodation.

Restoration and refurbishment of the building was a team effort aided by the vision of the Parlante Design Group. The result of this team work speaks for itself and was formally recognised during Heritage Week when 210 received the Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board's heritage award for retention.

Berfore Restoration
Built in 1912 for the auctioneer firm of Lawrie and Wilson, the significant architectural features of this building lie in the richly ornamented Edwardian detail of the upper floor of the street fašade. Though the ground floor of this fašade had suffered a number of unsympathetic modifications over time, this has now been rectified with the redesign of this area to accommodate the new use for the building.

The three remaining fašades are of exposed brick and utilitarian architectural detail. These fašades are in near original condition and reflect the original purpose of the building's use - that of auction rooms and storage space. It is pleasing to see that the new tenants of the building have clearly noted the significance of the utilitarian rear fašade by the care and attention given to the display of potted plants adorning the reinstated timber fire escape!

210 was built on the site of R.W. England and Sons coal and timber yard and since 1912 has housed a variety of owners and tenants including a gymnasium, dance studio, pool rooms and a photographic company. Perhaps the most infamous occupant was the Pink Pussy Cat Club - a Christchurch strip club which opened on 9 March 1973 - without Council approval! Although the operators had applied for a public building license, they decided they could not wait until the application was considered by the Council's health and general committee then full Council. The indiscretion was covered in the interim by a "Members Only" sign above the door!!

After Restoration

Jenny May
City Design and Heritage


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