Convention Centre details close

After months of silence the Government is today expected to announce the winning consortium for the Christchurch Convention Centre.

Rumours about an announcement have been rife for the last few weeks and The Press understands that Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Prime Minister John Key will provide more information about how the Convention Centre might look and which builders and designers will be involved in the project.

The Convention Centre will be developed on the block bordered by Armagh, Worcester and Colombo streets and Oxford Tce and has a forecast completion date of mid-2017.

In another development for the area the Forsyth Barr building, on the corner of Armagh and Colombo streets, has been sold in an as-is-where-is condition and will be made into a hotel.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) website says the convention centre will be jointly developed by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Ngai Tahu, the Christchurch City Council and the private sector. It is hoped that hotels and retail business will be developed close to the precinct.

In June, Brownlee alluded to more positive announcements for the central city saying "we can look forward to some announcements very shortly" on progress with the Convention Centre.

In March a letter obtained by The Press showed the race to design and build the convention centre was down to one after another bidder pulled out.

Five groups, out of 23 initial responses, were asked to submit proposals for the $284 million precinct.

Southrim Group, described by the Companies Office as a passive investment company, confirmed in the letter to Cera that it was pulling out. The letter was supplied to The Press by a third party and confirmed Southrim had been one of two remaining bidders.

It also said the Crown had confirmed it would proceed with the project with only one bidder.

Last year, Ngai Tahu Property, Fletcher Building and Naylor Love-Hutchinson Builders and Populous, a global design and planning consultancy, confirmed that they were among the five shortlisted groups.

They would not reveal their partners.

Others understood to be in the five groups included New Zealand infrastructure investor Morrison and Co, and Australia-based infrastructure business Plenary Group.

It was understood that the Plenary consortium was the only remaining bidder.

Details of the sale of the damaged Forsyth Barr House overlooking Victoria Square remain confidential.

The Press has been told the buyer is a local property developer who will gut the existing structure and reconstruct it for an international hotel chain.

Peter Rae, spokesman for the consortium of 25 previous owners, confirmed that the sale had been finalised. He did not wish to comment except to say it had been "a long, drawn-out process".

The consortium put the 17-storey, 70-metre high tower up for sale last year after banking an insurance payout for the damage. Their money has already gone north, with members of the group revealed this week as the buyers of a $45.75m Auckland shopping mall.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) had earmarked the Forsyth Barr site for the Performing Arts Precinct, but decided not to acquire it after insurers chose not to write off the building. The property has a rating valuation of just over $30m, based on repaired value, with $3m of this land value.

A hotel industry source said the developer who had bought Forsyth Bar House had invited several hotel management companies to take a look at it.

Real estate sources have said a 200-room, 4.5 or 5 star hotel could be created from the tower.

The Press