Timelines differ on eastern frame

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 17/02/2014

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Commercial activity in a large chunk of Christchurch's eastern frame has been ruled out by the Government for at least 15 years.

However, Canterbury's business leader says unprecedented growth in the central city will force the Government to release eastern-frame land for business use "sooner rather than later".

A report to Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee lays out the objectives of the eastern frame and says the aspirations of the private sector do not align with the Crown's vision for this part of the CBD.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) has acquired 98 per cent of the eastern frame, which runs from Armagh St to Lichfield St between Manchester and Madras streets, and will this month seek expressions of interest from prospective development partners.

The report, by CCDU director Warwick Isaacs, said the successful recovery of the central city required a substantial increase in the number of inner-city residents - something that was "unlikely to occur in the short to medium term without intervention".

Obtained under the Official Information Act, the September 2013 report shows the Government hopes to provide top-quality public spaces resulting in more "attractive investment proposition and stronger land values".

Among the key objectives listed by Isaacs was the need for a range of housing options and a limited number of "supporting non-residential activity".

The report said resumption of commercial activity in the frame would only be considered if there was demand for the core to expand in this area. "It is anticipated that any such demand will not exist for at least 15 years," the CCDU report said.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the intention of the frame was always to contain the CBD and he understood land would become available for commercial activity as it was needed.

"However, once everyone is sorted and that positive growth continues right through the central city, I think the pressure will come on the eastern-frame land sooner rather than later."

The Crown has so far spent more than $165 million buying up eastern-frame land and while 84 per cent has been acquired by sales agreement, a further 16 per cent has been compulsorily acquired under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act.

The report said the Crown used compulsory acquisition as a last resort and options had included changes to planning rules and "incentivising existing land owners to redevelop their properties" to be consistent with the vision for the frame.

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The CCDU has allocated $31m for construction of public spaces in the frame and work will start late this year.

A CCDU spokeswoman said the unit would establish the rules and design requirements for residential development in the frame.

The successful developer would build and then sell the developments.

Brownlee told The Press that Manchester St would be widened and "upmarket housing" would be concentrated closer to the western edge of the frame.

The purpose of the acquisition process had been to "shore up property values in the CBD", Brownlee said.

The tenants of Manchester St's Westende House are among the eastern-frame businesses forced to relocate because of the Crown's land acquisition.

The $4m building was the first new development in the central city after the earthquakes and is owned by KPI Rothschild Property Group, the same firm behind the new Strange's Building on the corner of Manchester, High and Lichfield streets.

The IT Team will relocate to the ground floor of Strange's Building next month.

General manager Connon Daly was "initially cautious" about the objective of the eastern frame but said it was "far too early to know how this area will work in the future".

The business did not rely on heavy foot traffic like others did, he said.

"I think from a retail point of view, it could be quite challenging . . . to be on the edge [of commercial activity]."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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