An exasperated builder has been forced to spend three months and $1 million preserving a dilapidated Northbridge house because the Government says it has heritage value.
The $35 million, six-level Zen Apartments development on the corner of William and Newcastle streets has to be built not only around, but under the 10m by 10m brick cottage, which is about 120 years old.
The Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority has deemed the 1890s gold rush-era cottage a "place of local importance", but developer Sean Xing said syringes where everywhere when work began on the site last year.
Mr Xing, director of East Perth-based NW Construction, said he believed the cottage was not worth saving, but he accepted the MRA's decision to include it on its New Northbridge Heritage Inventory.
He said the developers faced fines of $250,000 if the cottage collapsed, plus $25,000 a day until it was rebuilt brick-by-brick into its original form.
Describing the preservation so far as a feat of engineering and one of the most challenging construction jobs in Perth today, Mr Xing said he had encountered many problems.
They included finding the sturdy foundations he assumed lay beneath the cottage were in fact "rubble mixed with lime".
"Everybody said it was impossible. People call me a hero," Mr Xing said.
"It was a headache for me but not impossible. I am an engineer, nothing is impossible."
The 15m piers on which the cottage is raised will eventually be demolished to make way for the rest of the structure.
The cavity below the cottage will be a two-level underground carpark, the ground floor will be commercial use and the cottage will be a restaurant.
The first floor will be used for offices and the rest for residential.
MRA chief executive Kieran Kinsella said the authority was committed to protecting the area's heritage and cultural values.
"The building reflects the expansion and development of residential properties on the city fringes during the rapid population increase of the 1890s gold boom, and is a surviving example of the boarding houses that were once prevalent in the City of Perth," he said.
The Zen Apartments development is due for completion in 2014.