Central City Survey

By Liam O'Boyle

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) is asking property and business owners plus other users of the Central City how they want to rebuild the City Centre.

The future of the Central City both in terms of rebuild timeframe and its ultimate significance as Hub of the City will be determined by organisations and people’s confidence.

A confidence to work, play, invest, insure and for some to live, in a new Central City.

The majority of infrastructure is now entrenched in the suburbs. It is of concern Government Departments are entering into long term leases in areas outside the Central City. The initial residential rebuilds are around the satellite towns of Rolleston, Rangiora, Lincoln, Pegasus Town, etc., plus the outer City subdivision in the North and West will drift activity from the Central City.

While appreciating that activity must continue, this commercial and residential development will dis-encourage de-population but will reinforce a City of Satellites and potentially compromise a significant Central City.

The key to robust Central City rebuild and growth is to create an environment where people are attracted to safe, engaging range and choice of activities plus services that meet the need of the whole cross-section of the greater Christchurch population.

We applaud the CERA approach, and encourage people to have their say through this survey.

The majority of the commercial rebuild will be undertaken by the private sector. Many of the building owners are property investors not developers, support and encouragement to reinvest in the new Central City is important.

There is already anecdotal evidence of capital flight.

Significant areas of commercial property demolished post-earthquakes were old unreinforced masonry 2 or 3 level buildings.

Many of these types of buildings were not effectively utilised pre-quakes, often only the ground floor was retail, with storage or vacant in the above levels.With these buildings there were issues around change of use, the economics of bringing the property up to code. These obsolescent buildings did provide cost effective space to some of our more colourful retailers adding character to the City. To provide facilities for these types of traders in the future a market style environment could be considered around the retail and entertainment precincts. Perhaps a combination of our existing markets small scale retailers.

We look around some of the great Cities of the World and see how market places enhance a Central City, Barcelona & Budapest as a couple of examples.

The establishment of the Cashel Street container retail area has given Cantabrians a taste of a different style of shopping, with very positive feedback and initial results.

Traditional retail in Christchurch has been Mall or strip shopping.

The new Central City in the short – medium term will require a lot less land for Commercial use.

The encouragement of medium density residential development within and close to the Central City would be advantageous. More people in the City Centre sooner will result in a wider range of goods and services developing. Thought should be given to new sporting and recreational facilities as well, which should be integrated into the mix.

The Central City has an opportunity to establish as a vibrant environment but for this to occur it must be accessible and attractive for people to work in, to shop in, to be entertained in, and live in.

Tony McPherson

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