Rebuild plan for Christchurch unveiled

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 19:46 30/07/2012
CERA

VISION: A flyover of the hopes for a new-look Christchurch has been created.

Avon River Precinct
AVON RIVER PRECINCT: This will be bordered by green space, cycleways, and pavement cafes.
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As many as 840 properties will need to be purchased to turn the Government's plans for rebuilding Christchurch's city centre into reality.

The 100-day blueprint released by the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) today outlines a bold plan to significantly shrink the size of the CBD by designating two strips of land - one in the east of the city and one in the south - as open spaces.

These open spaces, along with the Avon River, which will be widened in stretches and developed into a riverside park, will serve to frame the new CBD, ensuring that all new development is concentrated within a tight geographic area.

Properties need to be bought up in order to clear space for the city's new "frame" and the other anchor projects included in the blueprint.

Cera is hoping to acquire most of the properties on a ''willing seller, willing buyer'' basis but says it will move to compulsorily acquire them if need be.

It is unwilling to speculate on exactly how much that will cost.

The properties identified as being needed for the CBD rebuild will have a designation slapped on them by Cera within the next couple of weeks.

That designation will remain in place for the next 10 years, although Cera hopes to have negotiations with affected land owners completed within a five year period.

One of the effects of the designation is that present owners will not be able to alter the way their land is used without the consent of the Earthquake Recovery Minister.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said that prices for all land acquisitions in the central city would be based on market values at the date the land was acquired.

This differs from the government's approach in the residential red zone where offers have been based on rateable values.

Brownlee said the different approach in the CBD reflected the highly variable nature of inner city land.

''We have had a team of valuers look at how you determine values in these circumstances. There have been some sales of land in the central city so we have a little bit of information to work on. You have to try and be fair to people but the harsh reality is there is virtually no value there until something like this comes along and things start to happen,'' Brownlee said.

While the Crown had the power to compulsorily acquire land under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act, the preference was to negotiate . That settlement could possibly include land swaps.

Brownlee said because of the tight timelines required for the rebuild, the first steps toward compulsory purchase would be taken this year but that would not preclude settlements being reached with land owners.

Brownlee refused to be drawn on how much the land acquisitions could end up costing.

''I'm not putting the figure we have in mind out there - I don't think it would be fair to all parties.''

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CITY TO BE LOW AND COMPACT

Building heights in the city will be kept at a maximum of 28 metres, although exceptions may be made in some areas around the planned new convention centre to accommodate hotel developments.

The convention centre will occupy a prime site next to Victoria Square and will be big enough to allow the city to host three events simultaneously.  It will stretch the entire block between Gloucester and Armagh streets and incorporate two new hotels.

A new Maori cultural centre will be built by Ngai Tahu in Victoria Square and will act as a welcoming point for visitors to the city.

The blueprint retains Cathedral Square as the civic heart of the city but its appearance will be changed, with more grassed areas and trees added.

A new public library will be built on its edges and the road through the Square closed to through traffic.

On the old brewery site in St Asaph St a state-of-the-art metro sports facility will be built. It will include a competition-size swimming pool, leisure pools and eight indoor courts.

A replacement stadium for the earthquake-damaged AMI Stadium in Phillipstown will be built on the old Turners & Growers site, on the edge of the CBD's new eastern frame. It will be a covered stadium with natural turf and seating for 35,000 people.

A new music centre and auditoriums for the performing arts will ensure the city's cultural needs are catered for.

The City Mall will remain as the retail hub of the CBD, with buildings in this part of the city designed to incorporate shops on the ground floor and office space above.

The courts and Christchurch's emergency services will be grouped together in a new precinct between Lichfield, Tuam, Durham and Colombo streets. This campus-style precinct will be home to between 1300 and 1400 workers.

Other precincts bringing together businesses and services in the health and innovation industries are included in the blueprint.

A new bus exchange, in Lichfield St, will provide parking for 12 buses and will act as the hub for the city's public transport network.

In many parts of the new CBD, roads will be slowed or closed to through traffic, but there will be a new network of walkways and cycleways.

To ensure the city has high aesthetic appeal, a new design panel made up of representatives from the Christchurch City Council, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and Ngai Tahu will consider every building consent application.

An earthquake memorial will feature in new CBD but the location and design of it have still to be decided.

MAYOR 'EXCITED' ABOUT PLAN

The blueprint for rebuilding Christchurch's CBD keeps faith with the vision put forward by the city's residents, Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said.

He is thrilled the plan drawn up by the CCDU incorporates so many of the ideas included in the city's council draft Central City Plan.

''I'm very excited about the plan. I think it reflects the visions, the views, the hopes we held as a community. We've got a low rise city and a series of wonderful areas for the community,'' said Parker.

''I think it is a good plan. I think we can deliver on this plan. I think it asks us to be innovative. It certainly demands that we work collaboratively, not just with government but also with the private sector. We can only deliver this if we work together and I think there are enough people with belief, faith and optimism in this city for this to be achieved.''

Parker said the plan brought with it a framework for investment.

''The government has made a strong commitment to our city by ensuring the city is redeveloped with world-class facilities; these anchor projects give us an unequivocal spatial clarity around which private investment can cluster and develop with certainty.''

Parker said the key priorities for the council would be developing the Avon River precinct and getting work underway on the new convention centre for the city.

KEY WELCOMES INVESTMENT SERVICE

 Prime Minister John Key has welcomed the establishment of a new service, "Invest Christchurch", to encourage investment into the new Christchurch CBD.

The new service will work with local, national and international investors, businesses and developers to facilitate private sector-led initiatives throughout the new CBD.

"The private sector will ultimately play the biggest role in the redevelopment of Christchurch's central city so we want to do all we can to make it easier for them to invest in the city," Key said.
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"The welcome mat is being rolled out for domestic and offshore investment in the rebuild of Christchurch, which will be one of the largest construction investment opportunities ever to be seen in New Zealand.

"Across the wider Christchurch region, as much as $30 billion will be invested by the Government, Christchurch City Council and private insurers in the rebuid, and the money is already rolling in."

Key said the establishment of the new design for the CBD is to "provide certainty" to the private sector which may be interested in investing in other projects around them such as hotels, restaurants and retail developments.

"Today marks the formal beginning of the project to make Christchurch one of the best small cities in the world in which to invest and do business," Key said.

He said the end result would be a new Christchurch, built on the foundation of ideas provided by residents, and adapted to ensure the city can be accessed and enjoyed by all who visit.

"As a former Cantabrian I am delighted to see this plan for new development and to know construction will soon be underway to rebuild my old hometown."

- The Press

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