Local investors buy up central site
The Press site in central Christchurch has been sold by Australian company Ganellen to a group of local investors with development plans.
The large block is largely vacant after demolition of the heritage Press newspaper building on Cathedral Square and other damaged structures, but includes the new seven-storey Press House facing Gloucester St.
The deal is covered by confidentiality agreements but Land Information New Zealand records reveal the buyers to be a Christchurch family group of investors headed up by Richard and Stephen Bell and John Smith.
The family own the partly-demolished 15-storey BNZ House in Cathedral Square and Vero House on Hereford St, also listed for demolition.
A source revealed the price as $24.5 million.
Family spokeswoman Lynda Bell confirmed the purchase and said they had plans to develop an office and retail building on the Cathedral Square frontage if they could secure tenant interest.
"We believe in Christchurch, and we had to put the insurance payout money from the BNZ building to work."
Bell said they had not decided whether to proceed with an ambitious design created for the site by Ganellen last year.
Options were also being considered for the Gloucester St frontage, which under the new central city blueprint is opposite land set aside for an arts precinct and next to the site of the new central library.
Ganellen director Mike Doig said the company had not planned to sell until approached, but the move would free up capital for the Christchurch rebuild.
The company had originally intended to complete a $150m redevelopment of the site, including refurbishment of the 1909 Press building, after it bought the block from Press owner Fairfax in 2008.
Ganellen, a construction company turned developer, will now do the construction for the new owners under an agreement which was a condition of the deal.
Doig said all Ganellen's designs and other intellectual property were included in the sale.
Press general manager Andrew Boyle said it would be business as usual for the newspaper at Press House, just with a new landlord.
Hamish Doig, managing director of Colliers International Christchurch which handled the deal, said the sale was a vote of confidence in the city.
"I think it's great. There's been so much talk about flight of capital.
"There's been a lot of capital flying, but not landing."
Doig said there was no doubt that the Press block was one of the prime sites in the city, and suggested it could accommodate apartments, offices or a hotel.
Ernest Duval, who owns the Cathedral Junction and Pacific Tower site next door, welcomed the news. "It's encouraging to see that someone is putting capital into the city. The city needs development and new offices to bring in people, and then new retail can go in. It's very positive."
The Government has said it hopes to have the red zone no-go area opened by the middle of next year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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