In charge: Skyline enterprises property manager Alastair Clifford, left, and Naylor Love project manager Bruce Halligan on one of the two office floors


After three years of planning and nearly a year of deconstruction and reconstruction, work on the O’Connells building in central Queenstown is starting to sprint to the finish-line.

The steelwork for the mountain range-shaped canopies wrapping around its Camp and Beach Street frontages is starting to appear, while the grey acoustic panels around its
exterior will soon start coming down.

Project manager Bruce Halligan, of Naylor Love, says about 65 people are working on the building, and that number will increase to more than 100 as work ramps up over the next few months.

In about a month, the tower crane sitting in the middle of the building will be removed piece by piece, over two nights, by a 300-tonne mobile crane brought in specially for the job, Halligan says.

He estimates two-thirds of the original building remains — basically, its foundations and skeleton — but it will be ‘‘unrecognisable’’ inside and out.

Four storeys: The crane soars 26 metres to the cab in what will be the building’s atrium

The Skyline Enterprises-owned shopping centre will have a revamped food hall on the ground floor, retail space on the first floor, and office space on the top two floors.

The company’s property manager, Alastair Clifford, says Covid’s been a ‘‘double-edged sword’’ for the project.

‘‘In terms of the building work, the timing’s meant a minimal impact on the local community, but there’s a flip-side in terms of finding tenants.’’

The redevelopment’s on schedule for completion in mid-August, but its reopening — originally forecast for November — is highly likely to be delayed, Clifford says.

Work in progress: An early artist’s rendering shows what the future O’Connells food court may look like

With Covid-19 continuing to impact the investment decisions of potential tenants, marketing of the new space ‘‘won’t fully recommence until there’s greater certainty’’, and the company would prefer the food hall and retail floors to be fully tenanted first.

Because many of the building’s future visitors will be overseas tourists, Skyline and its consultants are thinking hard about the impact of living with Covid on their personal habits and expectations, and how best to translate that into the building’s final details, he says.