Architect's blueprint for Christchurch precincts crumples

Gerry Brownlee

Several properties in central Christchurch will return to the control of owners after being designated for the past couple of years for purchase by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

This may prove a catalyst for the private sector to accelerate developments – as it has in peripheral streets around the central business district outside CERA control.

The land had been designated for a “performing arts precinct” under the government’s blueprint – an architect’s vision of precincts for arts, health, justice and residences.

All of the projects remain at concept stages but the health and justice precincts are more certain because they are essentially rebuilds of government facilities.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the land for the arts precinct is no longer needed because of Christchurch City Council’s decision to spend $127.5 million fixing the Town Hall, which is over the road from the properties.

The cleared properties with nine owners are on the northern corner of Armagh and Colombo Sts.

One of the sites was formerly a Copthorne hotel, one is owned by investor Stephen Collins and another by NBR Rich Lister Philip Carter.

“In fairness to private property owners I have signed off lifting the designation on 1.07ha that was originally earmarked for purchase by the Crown for the Performing Arts Precinct,” Mr Brownlee says in a prepared statement.

However, the arts precinct has other hurdles to surmount – the Court Theatre, Symphony Orchestra and the Music Centre are pivotal tenants and they have indicated they cannot afford high rentals required in new buildings.

They have set up in suburban locations which have performed well for them.

“With leadership from Christchurch Central Development Unit, support from Christchurch City Council, and positive engagement with the Court Theatre, Symphony Orchestra and the Music Centre, realising the vision of the precinct in some form may still occur,” Mr Brownlee says.

c.hutch@clear.net.nz

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