The 31 cranes counted across the Christchurch skyline late last year in the biannual Rider Levett Bucknall Crane Index is just one indicator that the city is getting back on its feet.
Christchurch remains a city in transition, a work in progress. Four years on from the February 2011 quake, the city’s commercial and industrial property sector is rallying.
The blueprint for rebuilding Christchurch’s CBD took out the future projects category in the World Architecture News (WAN) Urban Design Awards announced in London recently, with the citation applauding its “strong, innovative and legible response to the urban issues facing the city and its rebuild.”
The blueprint redefines the central city with a series of interlocking core commercial precincts including innovation, enterprise, health, justice and emergency services, convention centre and performing arts bordered by “the frame,” a belt of green spaces.
The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) is the team within the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) charged with making the central city rebuild projects come to life.
CCDU acting director Baden Ewart says the private sector – supported by the Crown and Christchurch City Council (CCC) – is making big strides toward a modern, world-class central city that people want to live, work and play in.
“With the guidance of the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, which established a vision – the Blueprint – the Crown and council have put about $2 billion into central city projects to stimulate private sector investment. It is paying dividends with a large amount of private development being planned or under way,” Mr Ewart says.
“The Crown-led Avon River precinct is well progressed and this is helping with hundreds of millions of dollars in commercial building already happening near the river.
“In the city’s retail precinct, the new Stranges site is proving a popular hospitality hub, and major developments such as Nick Hunt’s BNZ Centre and Antony Gough’s The Terrace are well under way, with other developments to come.”
Mr Ewart says that, in the innovation precinct, Vodafone has begun building its South Island headquarters, while developments housing Kathmandu and the Wynyard Group will start this year.
“Other big central city projects under way include the new bus interchange and the neighbouring justice and emergency services precinct. New transport links and roading changes now under way will create a central city with slower traffic speeds friendlier to all forms of travel.”
This year construction or early site works will start on other major projects, including the performing arts precinct and convention centre precinct.
The director says the CCDU has proactively fast-tracked an environment in which property owners and developers can now progress their rebuild plans to get the commercial heart of the city beating again.
“Gaining their confidence has sometimes been a challenge as some private commercial developers were concerned about possible escalation of construction costs, uncertainty about long-term rental tenancy occupancies and car parks in the city,” Mr Ewart says.
He says the CCDU in conjunction with the CCC is developing the Christchurch Central Parking Plan, which provides some certainty about supply and demand of parking in the city.
“The Crown has also committed to locating more than 2000 public sector employees in the city, which should help support demand for inner-city offices.
“Design and construction timelines for all public sector projects are provided to enable developers and industry bodies to plan and co-ordinate the procurement of materials and resources for their projects to prevent possible work stoppages, delays, or material shortages, and encourages fair pricing.”
Bayleys Canterbury commercial and industrial general manager Pete Whalan says that while there had been a tangible “flight to Auckland” by many Christchurch property investors when their insurance payments were finalised, a strong contingent of major players in the region’s property development sector pre-quake were now actively bringing new stock to their local market again.
“We’re seeing the likes of entrepreneurial developer Philip Carter from the Carter Group launching The Crossing retail and car park development, while Tim Glasson has announced his plans to construct the ANZ Centre on the Triangle Centre site,” Mr Whalan said.
“Then there’s Nick Hunt of Lichfield Holdings, who is soon starting stage two works on the BNZ Centre, and Antony Gough’s $100 million riverside hospitality precinct project known as The Terrace bounded by Oxford Terrace, Cashel Mall and Hereford Street, which is expected to be trading by New Zealand Cup and Show Week in October.”
Mr Gough’s proposed standalone car park building in Hereford Street – with his brother Tracy as financial partner – is also scheduled to be completed in 2016.
The rebuild activity flurry has created likewise opportunities for Christchurch developer Richard Peebles – with 12 commercial properties on the go.
Mr Whalan said these included Tavendale Partners House on the corner of Durham and Chester St, the new design-build Wattyl Paints premises in Fitzgerald Street, a new showroom for Mag and Turbo and Repco at the Fitzgerald St-Ferry Rd corner, a three-building complex at the Kilmore, Colombo, Cambridge Sts junction anchored by Abbott Insurance Brokers, and the McKenzie Willis development in High Street, with Wynyard Group as anchor tenant and a hospitality operator earmarked for the ground floor.
Mr Whalan said Ngai Tahu had also played an active part in developing a cultural and design narrative for the new look Christchurch – as well as investing significant dollars into commercial projects via their property arm such as the recently completed premises for the New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) Christchurch Blood Centre in Lester Lane.
He pointed out that Foodstuffs South Island was another success story – recently opening New Zealand’s largest supermarket distribution centre – a $45 million 45,587sq m giant in Hornby.