Commerce House will be just an ugly memory on Chester’s historic city centre sky-line by Spring next year.

Manchester-based Vale Park Demolition Services have begun work on the £237,000 contract for the careful removal of the 100-foot high former office block to make way for Chester’s new Theatre.

The company is right on schedule with its demolition timetable with the erection of scaffolding on the outside of the building whilst stripping the interior gets under way.

When the whole of Chester’s third highest building – only the Cathedral and Town Hall are taller – is scaffolded and screened, residents will see the building gradually reduced in size down to the ground floor.

And today (Tuesday) Councillor Stuart Parker, Executive Member for Culture and Economy, said: “At last the people of Chester are going to see visible progress on the site which will provide the new heart of Chester’s cultural offer.”

By January, 2014, the removal of the roof and lower floors will start with contract scheduled to end in May.

Interior work on Commerce House will include with the meticulous removal of brown asbestos or Amosite from six of the building’s eight floors.

Specialist contractors working under licence from the Health and Safety Executive will spend around five weeks removing the now banned product, formerly used as a fire retardant in thermal insulation.

Operators using respiratory equipment and working in airtight polythene rooms will remove the asbestos which then is double-sealed and transported to licensed landfill sites.

Said Contracts Manager Tom Perks: “Brown asbestos can only be removed under licence from the Health and Safety Executive and monitored by a consultant.

“However, the conditions and safety criteria for its removal are so strict the operation presents is absolutely no danger to the general public.”

Commerce House will become the site of the theatre’s 800-seat auditorium, orchestra pit and back stage facilities and work on its removal has coincided with the appointment of a world class team to build and design the city’s theatre, library and cinema complex.

Said Theatre Project Director Graham Lister: “Skill, expertise and a high level of experience have been acquired for all phases of this exciting project. Chester’s new cultural dawn is under way.”

The demolition contract will also endeavour to ensure the absolute minimum disruption to Chester’s bus services, traffic flow and resident’s parking.

Burning on site will not be allowed; continual damping down will minimise dust generation; areas around Commerce House, including the public highway will be swept regularly and skips and removal vehicles will be covered when leaving the site.

And residents in the area will be kept informed at every relevant stage of the contract.