Workers rushing to repair favourite Chch street

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 29/08/2012
Extensive repair work in New Regent St is expected to be completed for a projected reopening by Christmas.
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

HARD GRAFT: Extensive repair work in New Regent St is expected to be completed for a projected reopening by Christmas.

New Regent ready by Xmas

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Construction workers are racing to complete the restoration of historic New Regent St by Christmas.

The street is being restored, along with the neighbouring Isaac Theatre Royal, which will be open in time for the Christchurch Arts Festival next July.

New Regent St work is on a tight deadline after a building consent dispute delayed the $5 million project by about three weeks.

Workers have started stripping properties but are waiting for building consent to start restoration work.

Project manager Ed Leeson, of Naylor Love, said he expected consents to be signed off next week.

"The planning delay slows us up a bit, but I still want to bring it in on time. It was very tight, but it is even tighter now," he said.

"We will just be putting as many people on the project as we can to get it done.

"I don't think I will see many Saturdays and Sundays with a beer in my hand.

"We are committed to Christmas because it gives tenants the trade and gives them a reason to get in here. It will start to open up the city so people can get back in."

Work has started on removing the front and back walls at ground level and digging up floors ready for new concrete.

Most of the distinctive heritage tiles on the shopfronts cannot be salvaged, but they will be replaced with copies. Leeson has commissioned two companies to create sample copies of the tiles - one in Christchurch and the other in China.

The decorative upper storeys will be restored to their original pastel colours.

Thirty of the 38 shops in the street are being restored; the other shopowners pursuing separate plans.

New Regent St was completed in 1932 and is one of the few heritage sites to have emerged from the Canterbury quakes relatively unscathed.

Landowner and New Regent St Association chairman David Manning said the association was looking for new tenants.

He said the project could become the second phase of the successful Re:Start central-city retail initiative.

Meanwhile, Isaac Theatre Royal general manager Neil Cox said the theatre would open as a "bare box structure" for 10 weeks next July to host the Christchurch Arts Festival, the Royal New Zealand Ballet anniversary and the national opera.

It would then close for about eight months to complete the $28.6m restoration.

The modern flytower at the back of the theatre will be retained and the foyer and facade will be restored.

The auditorium space is being carefully demolished before being rebuilt. Samples of the ornate auditorium plasterwork have been saved so the interior can be restored to its former glory.

The decorative dome is being stored on the stage, wrapped in plastic and further protected by scaffolding, plywood and padded bags.

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- The Press

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