Owners in dark as site fight heats up

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012
Te Putahi

CONTENDER: The architect's original impression of the $350 million Westpac-Goodman office and retail project proposed for central Christchurch.

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The battle for Christchurch's City Mall is hotting up, with one of three competing developers' plans for a key riverfront site clearing a major hurdle.

The $350 million plan, drawn up by Westpac and property developer Goodman Group to run from the Bridge of Remembrance to the Ballantynes department store, has been approved in part by a panel of commissioners.

However, the Australian duo would still need to gain control of about 18 individually owned properties to build their complex of six office and retail buildings.

Some owners were not even aware of the plans yesterday when contacted by The Press.

Denis Sunderland, who wants to rebuild on his Plymouth Ln land alongside other owners, reacted with horror when told the Westpac-Goodman proposal covered his property.

Sunderland said his response to selling would be " 'No' with a capital 'N' ".

"I'm just as capable of designing something myself, if not better. I don't want them to have it."

Rob Logie, whose family had planned to rebuild on their shoe shop site, was sad their land could be "swallowed up" after 120 years of ownership.

The commissioners rejected aspects of the Westpac-Goodman plan, such as one building jutting over Oxford Tce and closing the road.

The loss of the riverfront projection, a key design feature, will send the plan back to the drawing board.

However, Westpac head of property Murray Dobson was pleased to gain resource consent.

"This is the first phase of the approval process but there is, obviously, still a long way to go."

The commissioners - from Christchurch City Council, Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) and Ngai Tahu - also ruled the project could not use the chosen name Te Putahi without Ngai Tahu's approval.

Earthquake rebuild rules say developments for the city's core retail area must cover at least 7500 square metres, and need not be submitted by landowners.

The CCDU has indicated it is reluctant to choose winners or step in and take properties as developers battle over land.

A second plan for the same mall site from merchant bank Ocean Partners and project manager Apollo Group was heard by the panel yesterday, with a decision due on Monday.

That design extends to Plymouth Ln, with six buildings housing 1500 workers around a public square, and already has some land under contract.

The team behind the Re:Start container mall, Leighs Construction and architects Buchan Group, is co-ordinating a third plan, marrying smaller owners' rebuilds, including the Logie family. The plan has gone before the CCDU.

A consortium of the Ballantyne, Carter and Guthrey families, along with Sunderland, submitted a plan on Wednesday for their land, which overlaps the Westpac-Goodman design at one end and extends to High St at the other.

Tim Howe, of Ocean Partners, was confident his proposal would be approved because it complied with the CCDU blueprint.

"We expect it to be approved by Monday - then we're back where we were a couple of weeks ago and it's up to the landowners to make a decision."

Howe said the Westpac-Goodman plan had lost its "wow factor".

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"The plan as they submitted it can't be implemented now."

Peter Guthrey was surprised to learn his family's site was under the Westpac-Goodman plan after they had joined forces with the Ballantyne and Carter families, and expected the mall could have "four or five plans for much the same land".

Guthrey said the CCDU might have to "knock some heads together" to get smaller landowners to co-operate.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee made an urgent change to the rules last week to allow multiple and overlapping plans after the competing interests emerged. The resource consents will not be publicly notified and cannot be appealed.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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