Re:Start mall may close in April

TESS MCCLURE AND CECILE MEIER
Last updated 14:19 20/12/2013
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RE:START MALL: The container mall has been popular with locals and tourists.
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FINALLY: Hundreds pour into Cashel Street as the gates finally come down.
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Closing Re:Start would be ''like shutting the city down,'' and a devastating move for the Christchurch tourism, says local tourism boss Tim Hunter.

The container mall has permission to remain until April 22 in its inner city premises, but beyond there its future is unclear.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said the mall was vital to drawing visitors to the city, and it would be ''a huge problem'' for the tourism industry if it closed.

''It would be like we're shutting the city down in a tourism sense,'' he said.

Hunter said the inner city complex had become an essential part of the city's international image and reputation, and he would ''support any efforts to keep it open''.

''We do realise parts of it have to morph, because there are properties there that need to be rebuilt on, but given the amount of land that's empty in the city, surely there are solutions to shifting it.''

The Press understands relocation would cost an estimated $1 million.

Hunter said visitor nights to the region were only at 54 per cent of pre-quake levels, and the resulting loss of tourist spend to the Christchurch economy was between $200 and 300 million.

In this context, he said, to spend $1 million on shifting the mall would be ''absolutely worth it''.

''It is a symbol of our recovery, and captures part of our history. Of all the things international media write about in terms of Christchurch's resilience and recovery, it comes up number one.''

Re:Start chairman John Suckling announced this week the mall had permission to stay one month beyond its March 2014 deadline.

He said the trustees were still "negotiating strongly" for an extension until January 2015. In the meantime, the "interim" extension would allow store owners to trade through summer and Easter.

Hunter urged stakeholders to work together to save the mall.

''We need to find a solution to this, and want the powers that be to take this very seriously.''

CONTAINER MALL 'A SYMBOL OF HOW WE TRIUMPHED'

The Press Facebook page has seen an an outpouring of dismay at the threatened closure of Re:Start.

The mall had been "a hugely successful tourist draw" said Natalia Sheppard while Dawne Watson described it as "a symbol of how we triumphed".

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The mall had already become a part of Christchurch's history, said Valda Parke and "should be kept as a reminder of what has happened".

Abbie-Jayne Montgomery agreed: "I would love to see it stay. It represents the early days of the recovery and is part of our city history."

RE:START LOSS WOULD BE 'VERY UNFORTUNATE'

Ballantynes executive director Philip Richards said he did not believe closure was ''imminent or likely''.

''I honestly don't think that [closure] will happen.''

He hoped Re:Start would stay open until permanent shops were available to take its place.

He said Ballantynes would be making this view clear to the CCDU and council.

''Re:Start has been very important to the . . .  whole functioning, really, of the inner city.

"The CCDU are committed to trying to keep the city going, so it would be very unfortunate if it were to close.''

TENANTS 'NEGOTIATING STRONGLY' FOR EXTENSION

Tenants are battling for a one-year extension to their leases.

Re:Start chairman John Suckling announced yesterday the mall had permission to stay one more month, beyond the March 2014 deadline.

He said the trustees were still "negotiating strongly" for an extension until January 2015. In the meantime, the "interim" extension would allow store owners to trade through summer and Easter.

He said he was not sure whether it would be possible to relocate the pop-up mall when construction started on the site.

City Mall landlord Nick Hunt said the extension applied to most of the site, but he was hoping to start construction on a portion of the carpark "not too soon".

It was a "complicated lease arrangement" and he could not give more details.

He said he was "always looking for tenants" for his $70m retail and office complex, which would replace the pop-up mall in Cashel St.

However, high construction costs meant high rents and it was difficult to secure tenants.

"We'd like to think we're making headway but it tends to be two steps forward, one step back."

He was reluctant to give a date for when the construction would start but he hoped it would be in 2014.

Fashion boutique owner Carolyn Barker said she was relieved to know she could stay until April because there were "no other places to go to".

She said she was hopeful about getting further extensions until more premises became available. "It is hard, but it's been hard since the earthquakes," she said.

Scorpio Books manager David Ault said the extension was not a huge change but better than nothing. He said it would be hard to find other premises.

Toi Toi design store manager Vanessa Dyer said she did not understand why the Re:Start did not relocate near the Cathedral.

She said New Regent St store owners were "suffering at the moment too".

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority would not comment on whether they would provide financial support for the mall's relocation.

Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) director Warwick Isaacs said their role was "to support development - temporary or permanent - that is the best for the city at the time".

That had included supporting the set-up of Re:Start and continuing that support through the extension of the lease last year.

He said the CCDU would continue to work with Re:Start through its transition stage.

 

- The Press

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