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Wednesday, 14 January 2009 | 07:15 PM
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BHP tower lifts city building gloom

3rd January 2009, 9:00 WST


The jumble of high-profile Perth skyscrapers being shelved in the global financial crisis appears to have abated, at least for now, with confirmation that BHP Billiton’s huge tower will go ahead.
  
The $500 million project on the controversial former Westralia Square site, which has been vacant for almost two decades, was in doubt because the crisis put the squeeze on builder Brookfield Multiplex’s ability to raise building funds despite the world’s biggest miner being an anchor tenant.
  
But building union boss Kevin Reynolds, whose CFMEU members make up much of the construction workforce on the tower, said yesterday the project was “full steam ahead”.
  
“Multiplex is letting contracts left, right and centre and the job is under full construction,” he said.
  
“Certainly plumbing and a whole range of other contracts have been let. There’s a lot of other (buildings) that aren’t going so well but that’s one Multiplex has assured us has to keep going.”
  
The contracts come after concrete and formwork deals were awarded in November, although these ensured only that footings and not the full building would go ahead. The building itself could have been mothballed until conditions improved.
  
A BHP Billiton spokeswoman said it understood the project was proceeding. Brookfield Multiplex could not be reached for comment.
  
The skyscraper will be the tallest office tower in Australia and bring the area back to life with cafes, restaurants, shops and a pub earmarked for the former WA Newspapers site. The heritage facades on St Georges Terrace will be restored.
  
Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said news the project would go ahead showed there was considerable strength in Perth despite the global gloom. Building cancellations announced late last year included Capital Square on the old Emu Brewery site and the second tower at Bishops See which would have provided a total of 106,000sqm of office space. 
 
PETER KERR
 
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