CH Smith project not without its challenges says developer Errol Stewart

Developer Errol Stewart’s main message to Launceston residents is an apology “for all the banging” at the CH Smith site.

The project, which still has his full support, has not been without its challenges Mr Stewart said.

It was originally expected than about 300 timber piles would be used to get the office building out of the ground. Closer to 500 were required.

“That resulted from a change in putting a secondary basement car park in … we’ve probably got an additional 80 to 100 spaces in all,” Mr Stewart said.

“Going down meant we were very close to the river silt, in fact we hit the river silt, so then we had nothing. We had to create a base, drive lots more piles and when we went down that depth it made working at Cimitiere Street really dangerous.”

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Mr Stewart said there was an existing cutting in the bank below Cimitiere Street and it was made bigger the deeper the builders went.

“There was some risk that Cimitiere Street would end up on our site … I drove 70 piles along Cimitiere Street to hold the whole bank up, so those piles are there and wasted but they are what we call a soldier wall to hold the road up,” he said.

Mr Stewart said a soldier wall was expensive and other setbacks included the need to move sewer and storm water infrastructure and connection costs for power.

“If those types of fees continue it will stifle development but we had committed … the costs of getting going were significantly more, a lot of the profits went south,” he said.

“But Fairbrother’s are on the site and are doing a really good job.”

By Christmas the structure of the car park is expected to be complete, but there will still be ramps, coverings, stairways, lifts and ticketing machines required.

Mr Stewart said he hoped to have the car park ready for handover to the council “very early” next year.

“We’ve got a commitment to complete the office building by the end of next year,” he said.

The first two ground slabs are due to be poured on Tuesday.

Architect Scott Curran is Mr Stewart’s partner in the revitalistion of the controversial CH Smith site, which has been vacant for nearly 30 years.

Plans include a two-storey cafe, office space for 350 workers and the car park.

The total cost of the project is $25 million.