'Vibrant new hub' soon to open

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2013

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Opening the Rendezvous Hotel and the nearby New Regent St will combine to create a vibrant new hub in the recovering city centre, a building owner says.

Structural repair work on the 22-storey Pacific Tower, home of the Rendezvous, was almost complete and the building should be handed back to the hotel by February 22, Ernest Duval said.

The hotel was aiming to reopen on April 10, while across the road repairs of the New Regent St block of 38 shops were expected to finish in March, after several delays.

By reopening the two sites, the area would become a busy centre with a possible tramway link to the existing ReStart container mall, Duval said. Next to his Pacific Tower was the Cathedral Junction Complex which would be ready for tenants in late June or early July.

That included the Quest Apartments, Hotel off the Square and retail space. It would bring more of the area to life and bring the tramway a step closer to working again, he said.

Connecting the New Regent St and Cathedral Junction area to ReStart by tram would be a great way to bring an urban semblance back to the city, he said. It would give people another option for "traversing the pockets of recovery, instead of walking through the dust".

In November, the city council agreed to pay $1.6 million - mostly covered by insurance - to repair the 2.6-kilometre loop and re-rig the overhead cables, which lost many anchor buildings to demolition.

The tramway is leased from the Christchurch City Council by Wood Scenic Line. Managing director Michael Esposito said the council would start track repairs in three weeks and be wrapped up by the end of June.

Opening could be thwarted or delayed by the line of track close to the Christ Church Cathedral, and the potential demolition of Victoria Apartments, he said. Meanwhile, his company was renovating the trams and fitting them out with audio-visual equipment to show how how the city looked before the quakes as well as the developments planned.

Three of the five trams would be used at first, because of the large drop in visitor numbers, with more introduced as numbers increased, he said. "We're very lucky that the original loop is very much intact."

There was still a lot to see along the route and the resilience of New Regent St had been a "boon to the trams' return".

Cantabrians and inbound tourism operators were all keen to see the trams back, he said.

"We know it's going to be a struggle in the first couple of years, but we're confident in the future and have great partners in the city council and the Heritage Tramway Museum."

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- The Press

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