An historic Auckland landmark is ready for its historic move: the 124-year-old Rob Roy Hotel - also known as the Birdcage - will move on Tuesday 31 August so that it is out of the way of construction of the Victoria Park Tunnel.
The heritage-listed brick building will slide on specially built concrete runway beams to a temporary ‘home’ 40 metres away. It will stay there approximately six months, and then slide back to its original location which will then be on top of the southern entrance to the new motorway tunnel.
The 1885/86 built hotel, which is owned by the NZ Transport Agency, will be restored as part of a plaza at the intersection of Franklin Road and Victoria Street West in Freemans Bay when the tunnel is completed in 2012.
The NZTA’s State Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker, says the move will be careful and slow.
“It will be the climax of six months of painstaking planning and preparation that will protect the Rob Roy as a landmark of the Freemans Bay community for the next 100 years.”
Mr Parker says the proposal to move the building presented exceptional engineering challenges because of the age of the hotel, which was built of brick and mortar without reinforcing.
“There were people who said it could not be done, that the building should be torn down,” he adds. “But while there are still challenges ahead, we are confident that the Rob Roy will survive not one but two moves.”
Work by the Victoria Park Alliance to prepare the Rob Roy for its move has involved structural strengthening of the building and providing a new foundation on which it will move. The building will slide on four 40-metre long runway beams constructed parallel to Franklin Road. It will be gently muscled along the runway beams by a series of hydraulic rams - each stroke of the rams pushing the building forward 1.8 metres.
Mr Parker says the biggest risk on the day will be any ground movement below the runway beams as the Rob Roy moves along them.
“It is critical that the building remains level at all times, which will require continuous monitoring of levels and adjustments as required. All going well, the move will take between six and 10 hours. But the team will take whatever time it needs to complete a very careful operation for a very special Aucklander,” Mr Parker adds.
Extensive work to prepare the hotel for the shift continues over the next two weeks. The weight of the Rob Roy will be gradually transferred to 14 hydraulic jacks inserted between the building’s new foundations and the runway beams. This will include shearing the building from its original foundations, which will be left behind and demolished.
Once the jacks are fully loaded, the building will sit on the runway beams for two days. This will enable the moving team to carry out monitoring to ensure the beams are satisfactorily carrying the load.
The move has been designed with the help of Wellington company Dunning Thornton Consultants which was responsible for moving the Museum Hotel to make room for Te Papa.
The Victoria Park Tunnel project is one of the seven roads of national significance and construction of the 450 metre-long tunnel will eliminate the last serious traffic bottleneck on the central motorway junction between the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the Newmarket Viaduct.
The motorway between Wellington Street and Victoria Park is being widened from four to seven lanes. The tunnel will take three northbound traffic lanes, and the existing Victoria Park viaduct will be reconfigured to carry four southbound lanes. SH1 through St Marys Bay is being widened by one lane in each direction to 10 lanes in total.