Lawsuit threat to 'pop-up' City Mall

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 27/10/2011
City Mall
City Mall will reopen on Saturday, October 29.

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Christchurch's City Mall Restart project is being threatened with legal action after being accused of copying a "pop-up mall" in London.

Director of the London Boxpark development Roger Wade emailed City Mall Restart organisers accusing them of a "blatant breach of the Boxpark intellectual property rights".

"Boxpark has now instructed legal action against the owners of City Mall – Pop Up Mall for intellectual property rights infringement," he said.

But City Mall organisers have hit back, claiming Boxpark was being "precious" and there were no similarities between the projects.

The threat could not have come at worse time for Christchurch organisers, with City Mall scheduled to reopen on Saturday, marking the first return of retail to central Christchurch since the February 22 earthquake.

The temporary shopping centre has been described as a "pop-up mall" made out of 60 shipping containers converted into 27 shops, including two cafes.

On Friday, project architect Anton Tritt told reporters: "We're pretty confident it is one of the first pop-up malls in the world post-earthquake. We know there are plans for one in Shoreditch, London, but they haven't been constructed yet. So we are ahead of them, and pretty proud of that." A press release said Restart was "thought to be a world-first project of this scale".

Boxpark have also called its development in Shoreditch, London the "world's first pop-up mall". The proposal involves 60 shipping containers grouped together into a temporary shopping precinct.

Emails obtained by The Press show Christchurch businessman Tim Glasson, who sits on the City Mall Restart board, visited Boxpark organisers with his son, James, in late April.

On April 19, James Glasson emailed Boxpark to organise a meeting, claiming its London project could "inspire" ideas for City Mall.

In the email threatening legal action yesterday, Wade said he had initially supported the Restart project, but had been "surprised" to hear organisers proclaiming it a "world first".

Restart director Paul Lonsdale said he had sought legal advice.

"We are taking it seriously because we have to, but it is very disappointing," he said.

However, he denied similarities between the projects, with the City Mall development divided into two horseshoe precincts while Boxpark was essentially a giant box with a cafe on the top.

"It will be very hard to say it's a copy because it doesn't look anything like Boxpark. The only thing that aligns these things together is they both use containers."

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While he acknowledged the Glassons had met Wade in April, this was after the decision to use containers in City Mall had been made.

However, yesterday all references to City Mall being a "pop-up mall" were removed from promotional material. Lonsdale said it was a precaution until the specific details of Wade's complaint could be clarified.

Lonsdale said City Mall would reopen on Saturday regardless of the threat.

"The last thing we need is someone being precious about similarities. I don't see them personally."

CITY SHOPPING

Hours: 10am to 6pm (Mon to Sat); 10am to 5pm (Sun)

Parking: 500 spaces, including two-hour free council parking and $1 an hour Wilson parking.

Shops: 27 (including Ballantynes and two cafes)

- The Press

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