New shops rejuvenate heritage precinct

New businesses moving in

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2014
new regent st
DANIEL TOBIN/Fairfax NZ
REFLECTING ON PROGRESS: New Regent St is certainly new, with six tenancies changing hands. Grant Nelson is one of those moving in.

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Four businesses resided in New Regent St when the historic precinct reopened in April last year - now 18 shops call the street home.

A further six will be added this year, leaving only three operational spaces left to lease.

A lack of foot traffic and parking difficulties have been blamed for claiming businesses - including Prestige Fudge, The W Room, MC Beauty and Nails, Hot Damn! Lingerie and The Petal boutique homeware store.

But soon the area will boast new eateries and drinking holes.

The Caffeine Laboratory will occupy the southern corner unit and Hot Damn! Lingerie owner Kat McCorkindale is opening a new bar called The Institution in her unit.

The owners of Akaroa's The Little Bistro have signed a lease for a large restaurant on the upstairs level of units 16-22 and the ground floor of unit 16. The owners of Coffee Lovers hope to open a new cafe mid-year.

Shop Eight recently extended its opening hours and obtained a liquor licence while G & A Nelson, a design and advertising business, VIP Fitness, Expression Tattoo & Gallery and landscape architect and property consultant firm Align Ltd are also settled into their new homes.

The Petal store owner, Karen Dugdale, said closing the doors on her business had been a "very tough decision to make".

"But it's just not financially viable for us to continue . . . the lack of foot traffic is our biggest problem."

She said customers were not coming into the CBD to shop on a regular basis. "They come in sporadically to have a look at the city but that's it."

However, Dugdale said businesses and earthquake authorities were "working tirelessly" to ensure the CBD got back on its feet.

The Petal closes on Saturday and will move to Merivale.

McCorkindale hoped her new bar would be open next month and believed New Regent St was heading in a "hospitality direction with day-time and evening venues". "The intention was always to have the [lingerie store] downstairs and the bar upstairs . . . but once we saw that hospitality was probably going to be more successful than the retail side, we decided to bite the bullet."

The Little Bistro owners, Paul Howells and Emma Mettrick, were looking to open their new restaurant on August 1.

Howells said he was looking forward to "getting my teeth into something bigger and different".

"The business [in Akaroa] has been going really well . . . but I'm ready for a change and I'm just going to get stuck in."

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James Bagrie, owner of the Caffeine Laboratory, hoped his new cafe would be open in five or six weeks and said he was positive about the future of New Regent St despite "a lot of bad press".

"When there's four or five [hospitality] options then I think it will become a little bit of a destination."

Bagrie's container cafes in Montreal St and Re:Start Mall would continue operating.

Grant Nelson, of G & A Nelson, bought two New Regent St buildings before Christmas and said he loved the "funky, awesome atmosphere" of the area.

"I really feel like it's got its own culture and attitude."

The business was forced to move to a "concrete bunker in Casebrook" after the earthquakes and Nelson said he had struggled to find an affordable inner-city building.

"Prices were just wacko . . . but then New Regent St popped up and it was in the affordable range."

The business was operating on the top floor of the two units and Nelson was looking for a tenant to occupy the ground floor.

New Regent St leasing agent Jeff Vesey, from Match Realty, said the area had "grown organically" and some businesses had failed while others had flourished.

"But I think the tenants moving in now are going to be there in the long term."

Meanwhile, the future of five unrestored, boarded-up units is still unclear.

The building owners' representative, Helen Thacker, has not returned phone calls from The Press.

- The Press

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