A tour of Blenheim’s new library and art gallery has given a visiting minister an idea of how the multimillion-dollar project is taking shape.
Economic and Regional Development Secretary Stuart Nash walked through the steel and concrete bones of the High St site in downtown Blenheim on Friday afternoon, taking a moment to admire the view over Quays Riverside Park from the second floor.
Marlborough Mayor John Leggett told Nash that the architects were stunned by the varied views from the site and that they had designed the building to make the most of it.
The government awarded $11 million last year for the $20 million construction, as part of the ‘shovel ready’ initiative designed to boost the economy as the country recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic.
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About 15 months after the design was unveiled, the steel frames, concrete second floor and wide central staircase were in place and the plywood for the roof had arrived.
District Libraries Manager Glenn Webster told Nash the new construction would be a major upgrade from the 32-year-old center on Arthur St.
The new design would help the team fulfill the role of a modern library, be it access to “the digital world”, creative expression, contact with distant relatives, rooms for meetings, technical support for seniors or even involvement in government services. Webster said.
“The kid’s area will be here on this corner – it’s looking directly at the fire station and they’ve made sure there are big windows so when the sirens go off the kids can all run up to it to watch the fire trucks go out.”
Cressida Bishop, director of the Millennium Public Art Gallery, said she was excited to see spaces where books and art could mingle. The gallery’s collection had grown steadily over the past 15 years and in addition to more space, the new gallery would have air-conditioned storage space.
A dedicated seniors area would also have a ground floor area, but there would also be lifts. A cafe on the ground floor would offer a view of the river through high windows. The Taylor River Reserve would make a nice route to the library for cyclists and pedestrians, and the Wynen St parking lot was just across the road.
Construction is set to be completed by the end of next year, although furnishing and moving the books and artwork would push the grand opening into 2023.
Site manager Nick Robinson said the construction project was fortunate to have avoided delays due to the national material shortage by ordering most of it at the start of the project, as well as likely avoiding the price escalations that followed the shortages.
Some raw materials came from Australia, steel came from China and parts were manufactured in Christchurch before the materials were delivered to a warehouse.
“We had a slight delay because of Covid, but we are actually on schedule,” Robinson said.
The work had been easy, except for the angular roof, a new challenge for the team, he said.
Project manager Luke van Velthooven told Nash that the foundation included a concrete raft to evenly distribute movement in earthquakes. An example of concrete raft foundations was the Christchurch Art Gallery which was undamaged during the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
Nash was in Marlborough for forestry and regional economic development events, including the planting of a new generation of drought-resistant eucalyptus trees in the Awatere Valley, a tour of the new wine research center being built on the Blenheim NMIT campus with a $3.8 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund, and a visit to the Kaituna Sawmill.
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