Luxury apartments for Christchurch

getimage (15)Christchurch’s tallest post-quake apartment complex is about to take shape opposite Cranmer Square. To be called West Kilmore Precinct, a $40 million plus complex will be erected 11 storeys tall with apartments priced between $450,000 and at least $1.2 million. The site is the corner of Kilmore St and Cranmer Square where Ernst and Young House stood before the quakes.

Christchurch property developer Grant MacKinnon is behind the project. His previous projects include the now-demolished Gallery Apartments in Gloucester St. MacKinnon has an investor he does not wish to name, but confirmed it was a local now living overseas. Although building height restrictions in the area were lowered to 11 metres in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, MacKinnon has existing use rights to build more than twice as high.

West Kilmore Precinct will consist of four buildings with different heights. Stage one will have 15 one and two bedroom apartments priced from $450,000 to $950,000, and is due to be finished in winter. Stage two will be two-connected buildings finished in mid-2017. They will be 11-storeys high with 35 apartments of up to three bedrooms and priced from $500,000 to $1.2 million. The third stage had not been finalised but would have six ‘‘higher end’’ apartments.

getimage (16)The complex will be full height facing north, with roof heights stepped down towards the south. MacKinnon bought the property in 2012 with the apartment plan in mind. He believes it is one of the best sites in the city, with views over both Cranmer Square and Hagley Park. About 20 of the apartments are pre-sold or under option. However he described the highend apartment market in the central city as difficult. ‘‘It’s a hard market to work in. Lots of people are looking and some are buying, but they’re careful”. ‘‘But we are appealing to some people. It’s a small number and there is still some nervousness about coming back into the central city but that’s rapidly falling away.’’

MacKinnon said he was pleased to see other apartment developments in the area. These include developer New-Urban Group’s Chinese-backed low-rise 30-apartment plan for the old Cranmer Courts site across the road, and the eight-storey Verve Precinct apartments going up to replace The Est@blishment on Peterborough St. ‘‘It’s encouraging that other people are doing it as well, as long as they do it right,’’ MacKinnon said.

Other apartment developments have failed to get traction, including the Miro complex planned for Colombo St and the Crown-run Breathe urban village project opposite Latimer Square. Real estate agent Mark O’Loughlin of Harcourts, who is marketing West Kilmore and specialises in central city apartment developments, said demand was coming from younger owners or investors wanting ‘‘affordable’’ apartments, and ‘‘younger baby boomers’’ looking for a lifestyle.

There was very little demand for family apartments in the central city, he said. O’Loughlin said there seemed to be a recent groundswell of buyers looking at inner city apartments, and he had sold more in the past six months than at any time since the quakes.


  • The Press
  • Liz McDonald

Innovation Precinct draws them in!

getimage55It’s considered the star performer of Christchurch’s anchor projects. And it has taken the gravity effect – of larger bodies attracting smaller ones around them – to make it work. The Innovation Precinct has several buildings taking shape around the corner of Tuam and High streets. While anchor tenants gear up to shift in, smaller operators are rushing to book space alongside them. As a result, an estimated 1500 office workers will be in the precinct by next year.

Broadly designed as part of the city’s 2012 blueprint, the precinct is intended to be a cluster of knowledge, software, electronics and other tech-type businesses. Mixed-use zoning rules mean cultural and educational groups and restaurants and bars can join them. Public spaces and laneways created by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) will intersect the precinct, making space for work and play.

The precinct got off the drawing board when Auckland developers Studio D4 spotted land around the old Lichfield Lanes complex, signed up Kathmandu and Vodafone as tenants, and got approval for two new buildings. It then handed the project onto southern-based developer Calder Stewart. Others have followed. Christchurch developer Peebles Group took on the wrecked McKenzie and Willis building opposite and is putting up two new buildings behind its heritage facade, and renovating another on the site.

The old ANZ Chambers site on the High-Lichfield corner has just been sold for development, and a new project is understood to be proposed for the Excelsior site opposite. Hospitality businesses have also taken the leap of faith. Tenants including Brick Farm and Dux Central have joined existing operator C1 in taking space in repaired buildings, while others such as Joe’s Garage have leased space in those still under construction. CBRE leasing agent Bonnie Stone said the precinct was filling a gap in the market. Rents and operating costs were lower there than in other parts of the rebuild.

Stone said the culture was attracting ‘‘smaller less-corporate businesses, and tech businesses who want to be near the likes of Vodafone and Wynyard’’. ‘‘It’s a slightly different model to what’s being built in other parts of the city centre. With the new and refurbished old buildings and cool spaces, it’s not like where the big accountants and law firms are going. ‘‘We want everyone to come back in, not just the big tenants, to create the lively city everyone wants.’’

Fellow agent Ryan Geddes, of Savills, said the precinct had ‘‘really good legs’’. ‘‘It just took off with the commitment with the bigger firms.’’ First finished will be the Kathmandu headquarters and the carpark building, complete with art display screens, next door. Both have March completion dates. The Vodafone building and the Cera courtyard alongside it will be ready in April, and the Wynyard precinct opposite will be finished about September.

Meanwhile, the Government and Canterbury Development Corporation’s GreenHouse incubator for fledgling information tech businesses has opened, alongside hospitality places. Studio D4 has one last development planned in the block – a new office building three or four storeys high. Also going in are the Information and Communications Technology Graduate School, and government agency Callaghan Innovation.

The opening of the precinct is likely to trigger occupation of upper High St, which has stayed fenced off since the quakes. Paul Naylor, co-owner of Studio D4, said it just took a few bold businesses to encourage others to commit to space in the precinct. ‘‘I don’t think any one wanted to be there all alone in a desert. But now there’s a lot happening and it’s looking great – by next year we are going to have a prime area. ‘‘People have rushed to it, it’s fantastic.’’


  • Liz McDonald
  • The Press

5 years since Christchurch changed

getimage (5)Five years ago today, 436,000 lives in Canterbury changed.

We did not know by how much or when we might return to normal, but we can agree that the upheaval started with a 7.1-magnitude earthquake 40 kilometers west of Christchurch just after 4.30 am on September 4, 2010.

The devastating aftershock that struck the city nearly six months later changed Canterbury on a much larger scale, but September was the start.

How do you measure and define the recovery? Dollars spent? Time elapsed? There is no right answer.

In truth, there are 436,000 different recoveries happening at once – one for every resident of Christchurch city and the Selwyn and Waimakariri districts.

No two versions of recovery are the same.

We have each taken stock of the process countless times and probably arrived at different conclusions for how the recovery is faring.

In the interests of providing the fullest answer possible, the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce (CECC) asked a cross-section of key players in the rebuild to report their progress by a handful of measures, including project size, completion date and value. Dozens responded.

This year, perhaps for the first time, that snapshot hints at conclusion. The Earthquake Commission has completed 97 per cent of its 69,081 building repairs and 80 per cent of 150,735 land claims. More than 80 per cent of all quake insurance claims are settled, according to the Insurance Council of New Zealand. The Stronger Canterbury Infrastructure Rebuild Team (Scirt) is 76 per cent through it $2.2 billion job of repairing the city’s roads and pipes. Almost all of the work in the central city (96 per cent) is finished.

The CECC asked respondents when they expected to finish their work. Some major projects, including the central city bus interchange and the ‘‘Deloitte’’ building on Cambridge Tce, are already finished. Next year looms as a big leap forward with a cluster of retail developments – the BNZ Centre, the ANZ Centre on the old Triangle Centre site, the Crossing and the Terrace – all scheduled for completion.

‘‘I would think by the end of next year, October 2016, when the heart of that central city retail offering is up and operational . . . you’re going to see a major shift,’’ CECC chief executive Peter Townsend said. ‘‘You’re going to see people coming back into the central city in ways that we haven’t seen for five years.’’

A Cera report from July estimated the rebuild – measured as progress in residential, nonresidential and civil construction – was 41 per cent complete. Of the three categories, only residential construction spending was trending down. The other two were steady or climbing. The peak for all construction in the city (including business-as-usual building) is shaping as the last quarter of 2016, when Cera estimates $1.3b will be spent.

The idea the rebuild was already peaking was ‘‘fallacious’’, Townsend said. He puts progress at somewhere between 35 and 40 per cent. The decline, when it did come, would be gradual. ‘‘We’re not going to fall off a cliff. The Government’s assessment of the end of this earthquake recovery phase is 2026. We’re going to taper off.’’

In construction terms, Cera estimated that would translate to a decline from the late 2016 spending peak to about $500m in the final quarter of 2021. By then, Christchurch will have almost spent all of the $40b recovery bill.

‘‘That [spending] has an impact on the future of Christchurch that I don’t think people have factored in,’’ Townsend said. ‘‘I’ve often been challenged by people saying ‘We’re only replacing what we’ve lost.’ No we’re not. It’s all new. We are recreating a city.

‘‘I don’t know anywhere in the world where $40b has been tipped into a population of 360,000 people to recreate a city. It’s unique.’’

The bulk of the money will filter through the economy via insurance payouts (according to the Insurance Council, commercial and residential quake claims are about 88 per cent and 84 per cent settled respectively) but some will arrive through big ticket developments. The University of Canterbury will spend $1.2b on its redevelopment by 2022, including new engineering ($145m) and science ($216m) facilities due by 2016 and 2017. The Ministry of Education’s $1.1b Christchurch Schools Rebuild programme includes the rebuild of 115 schools. The $900m redevelopment of Lyttelton port – a mix of quake repairs and expansion – will continue until 2042.

As those time frames suggest, the rebuild was never going to be a five-year job. Charles Eadie, who led the rebuild of Santa Cruz city after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, told Fairfax Media the recovery reached a ‘‘turning point’’ six years after the quake and most work was completed after 10 years.

‘‘I think we’ll look back on this period of our lives and say . . . we were hopelessly optimistic when it came to time frames,’’ Townsend said. ‘‘We all thought we’d be over this in five years. No, we won’t.’’

The statement is truer of some things than others – Scirt prioritising central city infrastructure repairs over suburban ones, for example.

‘‘I don’t want us to get to 10 years and think that we’re in that kind of state we won’t be able to reflect very positively on our journey,’’ Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said.

The focus brought on the central city by the recovery blueprint and the magnitude of the task of repairing broken parts of eastern Christchurch posed that risk, she said.


The Press

More funds for anchor project

sports-03The Government is pledging additional money to Christchurch’s metro sports facility but will not reveal how much.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee announced Tuesday Cabinet had agreed to increase Crown contribution to the major anchor project, above the $70.3 million planned in the 2013 cost sharing agreement with the Christchurch City Council.

The council committed $147m to the project.

“To ensure maintenance of a competitive tendering process, we won’t be revealing the agreed financial cap on the Crown’s commitment to delivery of the facility at this time,” Brownlee said.

While the design of the facility was still to take place, the agreed funding package meant it would include:

– An indoor aquatic hall with a 79m, 10-lane competition pool and spectator seating for 1000 people

– A 10m diving tower and warm water pool

– A learn-to-swim pool

– A leisure water area, with outdoor hot pools and two hydroslides

– Nine indoor courts for sports such as netball, basketball, futsal, floor ball, and other indoor sports, including retractable seating for 2500 spectators and function/VIP areas

– Sport New Zealand’s high performance area, which will include facilities for athletes and space for administration

– A large gym/weights facility, with up to five group fitness/multi-purpose rooms and sports health consulting rooms and facilities

– Four studio spaces for movement activity like dance

– A Sports House for administration of different sports

– A café, childcare facility and car parking for 500 vehicles (with the ability to expand in the future)

Previous plans for the facility included a 50-metre competition pool, and an complex with eight indoor courts and 2800 seats.

Sport Canterbury chief executive Julyan Falloonsaid it was great to finally have details of the project.

“We’ve been waiting for so long. It’s a great day for us,” he said.

The sports community could now plan transitional facilities and future competitions and events with more certainty.

“Now it’s about urgency to get the thing built and utilised,” Falloon said.

Netball Mainland chief executive Brigit Hearn said she was “extremely excited”.

“It’s fabulous news. It’s the end of the tunnel for us – now we can move forward and plan ahead.”

Netball Mainland had advocated for 12 courts but Hearn said getting nine courts was “certainly an improvement from where we’re at at the moment”.

The metro sport facility was initially planned to be built by early 2016 but the Government earlier this year pushed the completion date to 2020.

It is understood the business case was rejected when it finally reached the Beehive in May because costs had blown out.

Brownlee said Tuesday the intention was to open the facility to the public in 2019 and the remainder in 2020.

“As we work through the facility’s design and construction we will be looking closely at what opportunities there are to shorten those timeframes,” he said.

The Government had already purchased most of the land required to develop the facility on a central Christchurch site spanning over 70,000 square metres between Moorhouse Ave, Stewart St, St Asaph St and Antigua St.

The business case for the facility was “strong”, with more than two million visits to the facility a year expected once it opened, Brownlee said.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel welcomed the announcement.

“The earthquakes have had a massive impact on the region’s sporting facilities and I’m confident this new centre will reignite sport and recreation participation rates, and be another good reason to live in the central city,” she said.



Town Hall contract signed

1436384954063The Christchurch Town Hall has been largely stripped back to its concrete frame, but the bones of the place still evoke strong memories.

Those special memories were shared yesterday as the contract was signed to restore the earthquake-damaged building over the next three years: designs sketched on a kitchen table, children graduating and people queuing to visit on opening day.

The Christchurch Town Hall will be restored and strengthened over the next three years at a cost of $127.5 million. The main auditorium has been partially stripped out in preparation for the revamp.

The contract was signed in the heritage building’s foyer with restoration and strengthening work costing $127.5 million, largely funded by $68.9 million in insurance money.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel remembered visiting the building on opening day in 1972.

“I remember thinking this [foyer space] was so big,” she said.

“The queue went for miles. We all came in and we marveled at this incredible building.

“This place has been where we come together as a city to celebrate. This adds up financially and emotionally for the benefit of the city as a whole. Roll on 2018 and the opening day.”

Original architect Sir Miles Warren remembered designing the building on his kitchen table in Church Bay over the Christmas holidays in 1965.

“That was the beginning of a wonderful building process,” he said.

“It really was the most important commission that Warren and Mahoney ever received in competition. We became a national practice rather than just Christchurch architects in the process.”

Council rebuild manager David Adamson thought of family moments.

“All my children graduated through this place,” he said.

Regional Manager Steve Taw had memories of soft rock.

“I remember the last time I came here was for a concert. It was George Thorogood and the Destroyers.”

Council chief executive Karleen Edwards said the restoration would improve the Town Hall.

“We all have memories of coming here. We all have a special memory about this place. The city has missed having the Town Hall.

“There is a real opportunity to make this place better than it was.”

The building has been largely stripped back in preparation for the restoration. Carpets have been taken up, the floor of the auditorium has been stripped out and fixtures have been removed and stored. The process has revealed the full extent of how much the floor of the main auditorium warped in the Canterbury earthquakes.

The concrete floor of the auditorium bulges like the top of a sphere. The difference in height between the centre of the bulge and the edge of the floor is about 50 centimeters. Despite this, the walls and structure of the building have remained relatively intact.

The ground beneath the Town Hall will be fixed with more than 1000 jet grout piles, creating an eight-metre deep concrete grid beneath the building. A new concrete slab for the whole Town Hall complex will be poured on top of the new piles.

The Limes Room, which has moved towards the Avon River and risen at one end, will be suspended on scaffolding while new columns are built underneath to make it level again.


  • Stacy Squires
  • The Press

No extra money for Christchurch roads

getimage (3)The city council’s hope of getting more money from the Government for fixing Christchurch’s damaged roads and underground pipes have been dealt a blow.

An independent review into the cost of fixing the city’s horizontal infrastructure – the roads, footpaths, bridges and underground pipes – has concluded the $1.8 billion committed by the Government and the $1.14b from the Christchurch City Council should be enough to do the work required to restore functionality.

The cash-strapped council hoped the review by experienced Auckland civil engineer Elena Trout would support its view that more funding was needed.

The council estimated it would cost $3.2b to restore all the infrastructure, but Trout’s report has concluded it would cost $2.9b, $348m less.

Trout said the lower cost was a result of several factors including efficiencies gained from ‘‘changed and evolved’’ design standards for wastewater, water and storm water networks, better assessment of asset damage information, rebuild efficiencies obtained by Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (Scirt) and lower than forecast inflation of construction costs.

Trout said at the time the Cost Sharing Agreement was signed only 40 per cent of the assets had been assessed.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel would not comment on the report until she had a chance to discuss it with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. No date had been confirmed for that meeting, a council spokeswoman said.

Brownlee would also not comment until he had met with Dalziel. The pair have had the report for several weeks, but have been unable to meet because Brownlee had been in Singapore, then Iraq. He then became ill.

He was hoping to meet with Dalziel in ‘‘the next week or so’’.

The council has previously said if it was not able to find more money, streets in west Christchurch could go without repairs for decades because money to fix the roads and pipes was running out. Scirt has been working from east to west, so it was likely the bulk of the unrepaired infrastructure would be in the west of the city.

Councillor Yani Johanson said the report meant the city’s infrastructure was not going to be fixed in a timeframe or to a standard acceptable to many people.

‘‘The message from this is – the expectation that things will be put back as they were is wrong. What it shows, because of the agreements signed, people have to put up with getting less back than what they had before the earthquakes.’’

Johanson said the council must have a good look at its infrastructure strategy in the next few months to see what it could afford to do. ‘‘What it means for people is their roads are not going to be fixed as they were.’’

One of the report’s conclusions included that applying a second coat of seal, which provided a thick durable layer over the road, was not eligible for funding against the Cost Sharing Agreement.

Brownlee has previously said the horizontal infrastructure network would be at least equal to what it was before the quakes, and rejected the claim the council would to be burdened with extra costs.

‘‘It will be a long, long time before they [the council] have to start providing for maintenance on any of the work that has been done as part of the Scirt programme,’’ he said in December.

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the council and the Government needed to come up with an option that would serve the best interests of the city. ‘‘We don’t want to be driving around on bumpy roads for the next 20 years.’’


  • The Press
  • Tina Law & Louis Cairns
  • Photo: Iain McGregor

Christchurch bus interchange opens

1430718037742Christchurch City opened its new Bus Interchange Monday 25th at 8am. The old bus exchange was severely damage during the earthquake of 2011

University students, school pupils and tradesmen were among the dozens of people catching a bus for the first time at Christchurch’s new bus interchange.

A technical glitch delayed its official opening, but buses started running out of the new $53 million facility this week.

The Lichfield St facility was set to open last week but a software issue meant authorities doubted its reliability.

The interchange will be the first Government-led rebuild anchor projegct to be completed when the second stage, which includes retail areas, a covered bike-lock area and access to the remainder of the bus bays, is finished in about two and a half months.

bus-interchange-ground-floor-planTradesmen worked on completion of the second stage area on the Tuam St side as Cantabrians hopped on and off buses to mark the opening of the first stage of the project. Half of the 16 bus bays are now in use.

Christchurch resident Natasha Hawkins was catching the 28 line to Lyttelton.

She said the facility was “nice and flash”.

University of Canterbury student Claudia Dowling was waiting for the 18 line to university.

She would be using the interchange every week day, and said it would make a big difference to be able to wait inside.

“It’s so cold outside in the morning.”

Canterbury earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee said the facility’s opening was “a great moment for Christchurch” and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the rebuild.

“The Interchange is stylish and user-friendly, with airport-style passenger lounges that will ensure people can wait for their buses in comfort and protected from the elements. It has also been designed with a real emphasis on safety and sustainability.”

“Having an attractive facility like this is crucial if we want to attract more people to public transport.”

“The Bus Interchange is something the people of Christchurch can use every day and experience how far we have come.”

The opening of the bus interchange meant inner city bus routes would change.  Buses were now designated to use Manchester St with routes changing across the central city.

While all CBD bus routes were affected, those with the biggest changes were the Blue Line, the 17, 28 and 29. Customers using these routes were advised to check route maps.

Environment Canterbury chief executive Bill Bayfield said at the opening it was fantastic to see people enjoying the facility.

“It’s freezing cold outside and now we’re standing in a warm area.

“Our customers have been amazing over the past three years, using the temporary central station and just getting on with it.”

Christchurch Transport Operation Centre spokeswoman Tresca Forester urged drivers in the area to be wary of increased foot traffic on Lichfield and Colombo streets.


  • Stacy Squires
  • The Press

Christchurch retail precinct update

It might have seemed it was never going to happen but the central city retail precinct is signed, sealed and – in 18 months – going to be delivered.

Even his mates don’t get it, says Tim Glasson, relaxing back into the armchair in his tiny, temporary Lincoln Rd office.

Another wave of doubt is washing over when it comes to the rebuild of the central city. People are looking at the current state of the Christchurch CBD and thinking perhaps it will never properly recover.

So when Glasson’s friends bring up the matter, the rich lister – said to be worth a cool $75 million with his many property investments and 20 per cent stake in the Hallenstein Glasson clothing chain – changes the subject.

“I just don’t talk about it. It’s easier. What’s the point? It gets too frustrating.”

Glasson has emerged as one of the small group of local businessmen of a certain age who are busy refashioning the retail core of Christchurch. The other three are Philip Carter, Nick Hunt and Antony Gough.


An atrium in Tim Glasson’s ANZ Centre in central Christchurch. bordered by Colombo St, Hereford St, and High St.

Between them, they are pumping nearly half a billion dollars into a shopping and banking area centred around Ballantynes department store. It is going to be unrecognisably splendid, they say. And the projects are completely nailed down.

Sure, Glasson agrees, there was massive uncertainty until around a year ago. Everything was still sliding about. But now the tenants are lined up, the construction contracts signed.

Where the public sees empty spaces, he already knows the buildings which will fill those spots. It is no longer a question of if, or even when.

Glasson says his own $80m four storey ANZ Centre development – the old Triangle Centre northeast  of Ballantynes – is so hedged around with penalty clauses that its shops and offices have to be open for business by Christmas 2016. By early 2017, people are going to see the retail precinct done.

Well maybe not quite. There is a block of empty land by the Bridge of Remembrance that the Crown has ended up owning. There is a carpark the council is faffing about with rather than rebuilding.

But if the retailers can get a sensible outcome on these last elements of the precinct, they reckon they will have created a central city “mall” to beat anything Riccarton or Northlands has to offer.

It will have the parking and public transport access. It will offer a host of name brand stores like Top Shop and Zara that you won’t find in the suburbs.

And unlike Auckland’s Queen Street or Wellington’s Lambton Quay – strung out along some busy roads – it will be a compact nest of laneways and cafes. A modern metropolitan experience.

In his mind’s eye, it is as good as done, says Glasson. He knows because he, like the other developers, has been signing the cheques.

So why argue with his friends? Give them a year and they will be able to see it too.

It is the first time Glasson, now approaching 70, has sat down to talk about his own part in the rebuild. Like most Christchurch rich listers, Glasson has long been a famously private person.

He is known as a tough and careful operator who took over his father’s clothing warehouse in Lichfield St in the 1960s and though a merger with Hallensteins in 1985, built up a chain of men’s and women’s wear stores across New Zealand and Australia.

While officially now just a shareholder in the listed company, business commentators feel Glasson still pulls the strings. The managing director’s job at Hallenstein Glasson has been something of a revolving door – four different faces in the last eight years or so.

In partnership with the firm’s chair Warren Bell, Glasson also controls a large property investment portfolio that includes the $180m Deloitte Centre in Auckland’s Queen St and a private cemetery in Silverdale, north of Auckland.

Ah, Glasson protests, he is not here to talk about his other business interests. But yes, he admits, he has tried to retire a few times without success. And now here he is, because of the earthquakes, with another big job on his hands.

Glasson owned three small buildings in the prequake central city – the Hallensteins and Glassons shops off Cashel St, plus the historic Stewart Dawson building further down High St. About $25m worth.

His initial expectation was that he would collect the insurance and rebuild. “I was going to wait until the city got rationalised and decide what was the most appropriate thing to do.”

Glasson says at first it looked as if action would be fast. In 2011, with the ground still shaking, Christchurch City Council began drafting its central city masterplan.

But the Government decided the result was not ambitious enough and so created the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), which in July 2012 came out with the precinct-orientated Blueprint.
For the retail zone, the Blueprint called for a compact few blocks of shops with office space above. Cashel St rather than Colombo St would become the main shopping axis.

And to enforce an integrated approach, the CCDU said developers had to submit their proposals as an Outline Development Plan (ODP) which covered at least 7500 square metres.

It was a risky move. Effectively it divided the prime commercial space in the city, several hundred mostly individually-owned properties, into just six half-block chunks. This meant either building owners were going to have to get together with their neighbours to agree a joint development scheme, or else they would have to sell, hand the properties over to someone else with the cash and commitment to rebuild a corner of the retail precinct as a single project.

The CCDU suggested it had the emergency powers to force matters with compulsory purchases if needed. It also said international money was sure to be lining up to take advantage of the opportunity the retail precinct presented. But both these things proved optimistic.

Glasson scoffs at the idea that out-of-town investors were ever going to rebuild Christchurch’s commercial heart.

retail-precinct-night-aerial-artists-impression-december-2014-650pxHe says the earthquakes hit as the world was coming out of the global financial crisis. And if they wanted, foreign property firms could head to Shanghai for a 11 per cent return.

Christchurch was a speck on the map with soaring construction costs and an unclear future – the exact opposite of the kind of low risk/high margin opportunities that corporate investors have in mind.

This is why the retail precinct has ended up a project being carried forward by a particular generation – those with the experience and personal wealth to underwrite $100m scale deals. Plus the willingness to accept their ventures can only pay off over the very long term.

Glasson bursts into laughter when asked if he has attempted to calculate his own expected return. “No, I haven’t bothered trying to work that out. You could play with the figures forever. It’s got to be a gut feel as much as anything.”

In fact at the start Glasson found himself sitting it out on the sidelines. He was watching others trying to accumulate the blocks of land needed for an ODP.

Philip Carter had decided to go for the properties around The Crossing, the building he owned east of Ballantynes. The Glassons shop was part of that block so Glasson agreed to sell it to help make Carter’s project work.

Then Wellington-based investor Michael Ogilvie-Lee proposed rebuilding the Triangle Centre as a $100m glass wrapped building. And he needed Glasson’s Hallensteins shop to complete that ODP footprint.

Again, Glasson says he was happy to step back, sell out, wait until eventually something else came along that was worth him re-investing in.

Yet Ogilvie-Lee changed his mind. He was having issues with his Wellington property investments. After a phone call, the transaction was reversed. Glasson ended up buying back his own property, along with the entire Triangle Centre project.

It sounds a bit casual. But Glasson says it boils down to the usual business equation of local knowledge, personal relationships and gut instinct – even if it was a deal with a few more noughts than usual. “I’ve known Michael a long time. We’ve had to work together because our buildings are right beside each other. We shared a common access way. He let me use his car park. He’s an ex-retailer, so we talked about that sometimes.”

Because Glasson was involved in the Re:Start Mall project, he was also hearing the inside gossip of how Carter, Hunt and Gough were developing a logic for the retail precinct. It was becoming clearer how the Triangle Centre could fit into that whole.

Glasson says Ogilvie-Lee had half-signed ANZ as the building’s anchor tenant. It was happy to stay on and take the naming rights. Then he succeeded in signing engineering consultancy Beca to another one and a half floors for its 300 staff.

With Hallenstein Glasson’s board agreeing to take much of the ground floor with a couple of flagships stores, the development was finalised late last year. The Triangle Centre became the ANZ Centre.

The construction contract could be let. Right now, as he says, there is only a hole in the ground. They are digging the foundations and making room for the 96 space basement car park. But any uncertainty is history.

“We’re aiming to pass it over for fit-out in October 2016, so the shops will be open by November next year. And then I expect the offices will fill up over the Christmas holidays.”

Across town on the fifth floor of a new office block in Victoria St, Philip Carter is wrestling with technology. He has just had a wireless display installed in the boardroom and a virtual fly-through of his $140m The Crossing project should play when he taps the icon on his iPad. However the damn thing keeps logging off.

retail-precinct-artists-impression-december-2014-650pxLike Glasson, Carter is worried that once again a negative perception is developing around the central city’s rebuild. There is talk of investors bailing, anchor projects slipping, areas like Cathedral Square being left an eyesore.

Carter agrees there are problems. However so far as the commercial core is concerned – the shops, offices and civic facilities like the bus station and justice precinct clustered around Cashel Mall – the public should be reassured that the big money is locked in.

It took a while, but the button marked go has been pushed.

“If you stand in Cashel Mall now, it’s a bit of a mini-Dubai. There are cranes around the Bus Exchange, cranes where the Grand Chancellor was, cranes where Tim Glasson is, cranes around The Crossing, cranes around Nick Hunt’s buildings. It’s all starting to come out of the ground.”

After another few stabs at the iPad, Carter gets his virtual tour of the Crossing project running. Shiny images of what Christchurch people will be able to walk around by Christmas 2016 begin to play.
Carter explains the thinking behind its design. He says he sent one of his sons, Andrew, overseas to gather the inspiration. There were conversations with other retailers and the CCDU.

Out of that has emerged a vision of the central city rebuilt as if it were an integrated mall – but with more interesting shops and also open plan. A properly urban shopping centre and not a bland air-conditioned enclosure.

Carter says The Crossing will have two levels holding about 60 shops and cafes, with extra floors of offices at the corners. It will be broken up by an atrium and laneways so it feels always like a mix or being inside and outside.

And careful attention has been paid to how his development connects with everything around it. One entrance aligns with the Bus Exchange across Lichfield St, another laneway feeds towards Glasson’s ANZ centre, while the air bridge across to Ballantynes remains.

With all the other developers doing the same, Carter says there will be four blocks of new shops that flow down to Gough’s The Terrace on the banks of the Avon. The central city will have a completely new ambience.

But it relies on getting the car parking right. Carter says the reality is the rebuilt central city can only compete if it also has the accessibility of a suburban mall. Like it or not, success will be spelt out by the very numbers the centre brings in.

So Carter admits that it wasn’t until May 2014, when the council finally agreed to sell him the quake-damaged Crossing public car park, allowing him to increase the number of car parking spaces from 200 to 630, that his plans actually clicked into place.

“That was the circuit-breaker.” That is when he could complete the land purchases – buying 8000 sq m on top of the 2000 sq m he already owned – and start planning the detailed design.

Now it is happening. It looks a bombsite at the moment, but Carter says The Crossing will also open by Christmas 2016. The central city will have a retail precinct that is miles ahead of anywhere else in terms of its attractiveness and ease of use.

Carter does mourn a missed opportunity or two. He says an obvious omission from the “mall in the city” story is a cinema multiplex.

Given central city building costs, it couldn’t pay for itself as a development. Well, possibly it might have worked as extra storeys on top of the new Bus Exchange, he says, but that is history now.

More seriously, there is the question of what is going to happen to what has become known as the south west retail block down by the Bridge of Remembrance – the large site currently occupied by Re:Start Mall.

Originally that was going to be the prime shopping development under a $350m ODP put forward by Australasian property giant, the Goodman Group, with Westpac Bank as the anchor tenant.
This was the outside money that the CCDU promised. But the Goodman proposal got bogged down because local landowners refused to be bought out and the CCDU proved shy about using its compulsory purchase powers to force through any sales.

However it then ended up with much of the land being in Crown ownership anyway after a succession of other deals fell through and eventually all those involved walked away.

The failure of the south west block was why the retail precinct felt stalled – along with the fact that the office blocks were springing up all along Victoria St and Cambridge Tce, the wrong side of where the Blueprint wanted them to be.

Carter now looks at this large empty site and sees it as the other natural half to his mall concept. Especially if the council could be persuaded to integrate its remaining damaged car park, the Lichfield St multi-storey beside Ballantynes, into a coherent development.

“The CBD has to have the scale to fight the suburban malls. They have been the problem for many years. And with that as the other half of a new mall in the city, the CBD’s case would be so compelling.”
Carter’s hope is that as The Crossing, the ANZ Centre, and Hunt’s and Gough’s developments take shape, as tenants and funders recognise the possibility that has been created, this next obvious step is sure to follow.

Development is a confidence game. The central city’s problem is that it is caught between the moment in mid-2014 when the spending plans of the likes of Carter and Glasson finally gelled and Christmas 2016 when Cashel St will re-open with a bang.

The city feels on hold. And also its successes are mixed. Some parts of the CCDU’s blueprint, like the innovation precinct, are looking to have developed a head of steam now.

The East Frame is also shortly likely to be declared a success with the official announcement that Fletcher Living is to be the builder of some 1200 apartments along Manchester St – although at an expected build rate of 150 a year, that may prove a slow burning project.

But then there are the other Blueprint elements – around Cathedral Square in particular, and also the South Frame with its hope of turning car yards into campus style office development – where the vision is languishing.

Yet many are echoing Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend in saying you can’t spend $10b on commercial buildings and $7b on civic buildings in a city the size of Christchurch without it being transformational in the end.

Jonathan Lyttle, managing director for commercial real estate specialist Savills, says in retrospect the Blueprint’s ODP process that tilted the table to half block-size developments in the retail precinct was a real risk.

It probably created a year’s delay because of the extra time it took to accumulate the land, corral sufficient tenants, figure out the designs. However now it is safe to talk about what it is going to look like.

“We bring people down from Auckland and after they get off the plane, they just see the devastation. But once you get them on the ground, walk what is literally just two blocks and tell them there’s going to be 10,000 people here in three years time, they’re simply blown away,” says Lyttle.

The new city centre is going to have more people working within 300m of The Crossing or the ANZ Centre than there were within the whole four avenues pre-earthquake. It will be humming, says Lyttle.

So while chunks of the blueprint vision may take a few further years to fall into place, with the retail precinct, the basic plan is finalised, the tenants on board, the foundations already being dug.

It is as good as built. There is now just the 18 month gap until it actually is.


  • John McCrone
  • The Press

Rebuild falling behind

Two years ago this month, The Press consulted developers, landowners, local leaders and recovery plans to form a picture of how Christchurch might look in February 2016.


Comparing 2013 schedules with progress made two years later makes for sobering reading. Timelines have changed several times and projects that were supposed to have started by now have stalled or been delayed months, if not years.

For some, the blueprint is to blame. The planning and designing phase has taken longer than expected in some cases and involved land acquisitions and zoning difficulties. Major anchor projects have been continually delayed, causing uncertainty for private developers and investors.

Even the quake memorial, which was supposed to be ready for the fifth anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake in 2016, has been delayed another year.

According to 2013 forecasts, construction of the convention centre should have started by December last year and work on the stadium and the metro sports facility by March this year. But no work has begun on any of the sites – the three major anchor projects have been delayed by several years. The Government has offered little explanation for the delays, despite developers and the community demanding answers this week.

getimage (2)This led to speculation that convention-centre costs were spiralling out of control and that Cabinet had rejected a business case for the metro sports facility.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee scotched those rumours this week. No business case had been rejected for the facility, he said. Budgets were ‘‘always revised’’ on any building project, ‘‘whether it’s a garden shed, a front fence or a convention centre’’.

‘‘I think everyone should relax and recognise that these types of facilities are going to be around for decades and you’ve got one shot at getting them right at the start.’’

Brownlee was ‘‘pretty relaxed’’ at the delays.

‘‘It’s just a matter of getting things right before you start pouring concrete on the ground.’’

Preliminary work – business cases, designs and plans – was ‘‘a good investment’’.

Brownlee said the city needed the convention centre and the metro sports facility and confirmed the projects would go ahead despite delays.

In Christchurch’s CBD, all major demolitions should have been completed more than a year ago but the Manchester St car park, Calendar Girls on Hereford St, the Orion building, and Westende House are still to be pulled down.

The stalling of Anthony Gough’s Terrace development was another blow for the central city’s development. It should have been completed in September this year but is running a year behind schedule. On the bright side, a rash of new buildings will be completed in the nearby retail precinct next year, including The Crossing, Cashel Square, The Terrace and the ANZ Centre.

getimage (3)The performing arts precinct has also stalled. Ground was broken last month for construction a 300-seat concert hall for the centre for music and the arts, but Christchurch art organisations are still waiting for the Government to pull together a deal for the rest of the precinct on a block bounded by Gloucester, Armagh, New Regent and Colombo streets.

The residential red zone was scheduled to be cleared last year. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) has made good progress but has extended the housing demolition deadline to June 2015. The land clearance will not be completed until April 2016.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) is also behind schedule. Land-claim settlements should have been completed at the end of last year but complex types of damage have emerged.

The Christchurch City Council has pushed back the opening of the central city library near Cathedral Square by about 18 months, to early 2018.

The design phase and land acquisition took longer than expected, the council says. Site clearance is under way and the council expects to get access to it in July.

The Margaret Mahy playground, on the old centennial pool site, is also running a year behind but should be open in time for the Christmas school holidays.

In 2016, Christchurch can expect the Avon River precinct and the south frame to be nearing completion, a year behind schedule.

It is not all doom and gloom. Some projects were completed almost on time and others are well on target.

Last year, the new Stranges building on High St opened only a few months later than planned. The same goes for the Isaac Theatre Royal, which opened six months later than expected.

The new bus interchange on Tuam St should be fully operational next month, as planned, and work on the justice and emergency services precinct is under way.

EQC is on track to complete its home repairs by the end of the year. The massive task of repairing Christchurch’s pipes and roads is on track for completion at the end of 2016.

Cera acting chief executive John Ombler said the Crown’s commitment to the vision of the blueprint had not changed.

‘‘What has changed are delivery times. We still have some business processes to go through, that’s just a fact . . . and we’ve made a commitment to update [the community] as frequently as we can.’’


  • The Press

Anchor projects cause anxiety!

1431085048320Canterbury sports enthusiasts and businesses are “hugely disappointed” and frustrated two of Christchurch’s major anchor projects will be delayed.

The Government on Friday said completion of the metro sports facility would be delayed to early 2020 and the convention centre to late 2018.

Concern is also growing for Cathedral Square’s renovation with ASB Bank pulling out of plans for a new regional headquarters there.

Indoor sports players, swimmers and other athletes have all been waiting keenly for the metro sports facility to open but will now have to wait three more years.

The centre was initially supposed to be finished by March 2017.

Mainland Netball chief executive Bridget Hearn said the news was “hugely disappointing” for indoor sport in Canterbury.

Five years was an “incredibly long wait” and lack of indoor space in the city was problematic.

“I know we have to be patient, and we are very excited about the metro sports facility, but we have had to turn away junior teams for lack of space.”

Rugby had transitional facilities, she said, but indoor and womens sports had been left in the lurch.

Canterbury Sport chief executive Julyan Falloon said there was “real frustration” at the delay.

Aquatic and indoor sports had been “hugely compromised” since the earthquakes, he said, and organisations would find it hard to plan ahead for infrastructure across the city.

School Sport Canterbury regional sports director Bill Grogan said the delay meant students would miss out on tournament opportunities.

“Canterbury students have to keep travelling for national tournaments as we can’t host any at the moment.”

The tourism and business community was also counting on an opening date for the convention centre in late 2017.

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said progress on the centre was “disappointingly slow” and caused uncertainty among business owners and investors.

“People need to plan ahead. We keep getting these delays and this causes uncertainty about when it will actually happen.”

Christchurch and Canterbury Convention Centre Bureau (CCCCB) manager Caroline Blanchfield said the delay was “disappointing” but she hoped the centre would be open in time for a large health conference booked in November 2018.

The Asia-Oceania Conference of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine would bring 800 delegates and an estimated $2.1 million to the city.

She said a “back-up plan” was in place in case the centre was not finished in time.

With the convention centre delays, the halving of the size of the performing arts precinct, and no sign of an answer on the future of Christ Church Cathedral, fears were rising that Cathedral Square was becoming toxic for development.

ASB bank announced in December 2013 it would be the anchor tenant for a four-storey office block to be developed at 9 Cathedral Square, on the site of the previous ANZ building.

However, ASB spokesman Christian May said the bank broke off negotiations with Central City Estates, the family investor group that owns the site, in December 2014.

May said ASB was now talking to developers of other “high profile CBD sites” and still expected to reopen somewhere by late 2016.

Ernest Duval, of the City Owners Rebuild Entity (Core), was unsure who would be booking conventions while the square’s future remained so uncertain.

“The pressing issue is to break the impasse on the cathedral and address some of these buildings like [the half-demolished BNZ House], [and] try and move things forward, because we’re missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of development,” he said.

Christchurch Central Development Unit director Baden Ewart said the Crown’s commitment to the vision of the blueprint had not changed.

Time frames had been reviewed and the public would be updated on them “as often as we can”.


  • The Press
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