Re:Start retailers 'in dark' on leases

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013

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Store owners in Christchurch's central city Re:Start shopping hub are in limbo with one shop closing and others unsure whether they can stay on next year.

Construction of a $70 million retail and office complex to replace the pop-up mall on Cashel St was supposed to start in January this year.

However, with no construction in sight, Re:Start tenants say they do not know if they can stay in their premises beyond March.

Re:Start chairman John Suckling said the mall had permission to stay until then, but the trustees were "pushing very hard" to get an extension until January 2015.

"We believe that a decision is very close, but negotiations are tricky at present," he said.

The landowners were not sure when they would start building on the site and did not want to commit too far ahead, Suckling said.

City Mall landlord Nick Hunt said he would not comment as no agreement had been reached about the extension.

Hunt owns half a Cashel St block with plans for an office and shopping precinct.

He told The Press earlier this year that he was struggling to secure office tenants for his project because the rents needed to fund construction costs were too high.

Minnie Cooper shoe shop owner Sandy Cooper said she would not renew her lease at the beginning of January.

Cooper did not want to keep shipping stock to Christchurch not knowing how long she would be able to stay. She said the boutique might return later to another location, but no decision had been made yet.

Rosie Suyker and grandmother Valerie Glass were visiting from Methven yesterday. Glass said it was sad to see the shop go.

Hapa design store co-owner Maureen Taane said Re:Start tenants had been left in the dark about the extent of their leases.

"It's incredibly frustrating to not have this certainty."

She said she would love to stay one more year as her shop had been doing really well. It would also give her time to find a permanent location.

Suckling said it was very difficult for retailers to plan ahead as there was no long-term lease on the land. However, most were keen to stay one more year, he said.

Amanda Teear, of Maher shoe shop, said she would stay in the temporary mall until the end. She said the uncertainty was part of the deal and that tenants had to "go with the flow".

Jane McNabb was shopping for shoes at the Re:Start yesterday. She said she would like the shops to stay at least one more year.

"I wouldn't like to go to the mall instead. They need to keep it without stopping construction projects," she said.

Suckling said Re:Start had been built as a temporary facility and would not stay long term.

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"The whole purpose of the Re:Start was to provide a transitional bridge between the earthquakes and new premises starting."

The cluster of shipping containers would close down as soon as tenants would be able to move into new buildings.

"Re:Start doesn't want to compete with new retail facilities."

Central City Development Unit director Warwick Isaacs said there "may be provision" to extend Re:Start's lease beyond March.

Developers Lichfield Holdings and Colliers International revealed in 2012 the low-rise retail and office complex would cover 7500 square metres off City Mall.

The complex would have an 80-metre frontage opposite Ballantynes.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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