Call for action on Christchurch CBD

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 02/03/2013

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Urgent action has been called for to stem the loss of businesses from central Christchurch, with construction of enough buildings to house half its office work force already under way outside the rebuild zone.

Developments covering 30,000 square metres of floor space are going up in and around Victoria St, Lincoln Rd and Moorhouse Ave outside the core business zone. They will cover half the 60,000 sqm the Government calculated was needed to rehouse workers in the central city.

Property sector leader Tony Sewell told a gathering of property owners that the central business district was at risk. Once buildings were up inside the core, businesses would already be settled outside it and would not shift back.

"We are bogged down in processes and reports but nothing is getting built," Sewell said.

Sewell, chief executive of Ngai Tahu Property and president of the New Zealand Property Council, called for politicians to set the rules then leave the rebuild to private developers in areas such as the frame.

"When has any politician taken the risks like you guys have? Civil service property development is an oxymoron."

He urged the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) to publish timelines for building the new central library and convention centre and announce the fate of the damaged town hall.

Property owner and developer Stephen Collins, a former president of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce and mayoral forum member, told the meeting he also had fears for the future of the central city.

Landowner Miles Middleton, whose properties include the Westpac House and DTZ sites and who is in the process of selling up, told The Press problems with City Mall and delays on timelines "all add up".

"It's frustrating. We just can't get going and in the meantime the city is losing tenants. To be honest, I've had a gutsful."

The calls follow a recent plea from developers and landowners for the Government to resolve the impasse on the City Mall site, the centre of a battle for control.

Office developments under way or planned outside the central city include Richard Diver's six new and two renovated buildings and some from other developers in Victoria St; Paul Kelly's five Moorhouse Ave buildings; and two major buildings under construction in Lincoln Rd plus others across the road at Hazeldean office park.

Signed-up tenants include major law, accounting, engineering, IT and consultancy firms, the likes of which the CCDU is counting on to repopulate the central city.

The Government is looking for developers' proposals to house the 2500 public servants expected to return to the city centre, but no firm plans have been announced.

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Blair Young, commercial manager for real estate firm Bayleys, said tenants were having to sign 10-year leases to secure space in the new buildings going up.

"So they will not be returning [to the central city] for a long time."

CCDU project delivery general manager Greg Wilson said expected dates for design and construction of the anchor projects would be released by the end of April.

It was crucial to deliver projects of a high standard in "the most timely" manner, Wilson said.

- The Press

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