Project a first for health precinct

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 21/05/2014
Richard Diver
SUPPLIED

REDEVELOPMENT: An artist’s impression of Richard Diver’s Countrywide Property Group’s development on Oxford Tce.

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Christchurch's health precinct has secured its first private sector development, but details about the overall project remain scant.

Developer Richard Diver is taking his eyes off Victoria St, where he has developed 10 sites since the earthquakes, and now has plans for a multimillion-dollar five-storey development on Oxford Tce.

It is understood that Diver is the first to confirm plans in the private sector-led project.

So far the only organisations known to have interest in the precinct are the Canterbury District Health Board, the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and the University of Otago, Christchurch.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) would not say when a master plan for the precinct would be complete but general manager of project delivery Greg Wilson said public sector developments needed to get underway "in order to provide the private sector the certainty they require".

However, the University of Otago said it could not progress its development plans until the CCDU had finished land acquisition and planning.

The total amount of land needed for the public spaces in the precinct had still not been finalised, Wilson said.

Diver recently purchased the former Deloitte building on Oxford Tce - just west of Montreal St - and hoped to have his latest project completed by the end of next year.

He was in negotiations with health-related businesses but no tenancies had been confirmed.

"I'm still not comfortable with the work in the old CBD and I still don't have enough confidence to develop in there . . . but I like the idea of being part of an anchor project."

The existing building would be stripped until only the shell remained and this would form the basis of construction. The structure would be brought up to 100 per cent of the building code and extensions would be added to either side, creating a 6000 square metre building.

Diver hoped a mix of retail and hospitality would take up the ground floor.

He said the CCDU had "moved exceptionally quickly" to sign off his development plans.

He thought it was a "bonus" to be in an area where the tenants had to fit a certain criteria and felt "really positive" about the project.

University of Otago chief operating officer John Patrick said the university had plans to develop a building on land it already owned within the precinct but there were no timeframes in place.

He said an advisory council was soon to be established and would assume many of the functions of the steering group.

"The university understands the concept of the health precinct, although it has limited knowledge of the details because many of the projects and initiatives required to achieve the desired outcomes are still evolving."

Wilson said the Crown's role was to facilitate private and public investment.

"There is strong interest from health-related private sector firms in being part of the health precinct, but it is not appropriate for the CCDU to announce any private sector developments."

Head of the department of nursing and human services at CPIT, Dr Cathy Andrew, said the organisation was "working closely" with the steering group.

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"Like all the partners we are keen to begin but there is a process to work through first."

CDHB executive lead for the health precinct Stella Ward said the board's role was to "help facilitate and direct" the project.

Even before the earthquakes facilities for teaching and professional development were limited and the "current situation is critical", Ward said. "The health precinct is a key development in enhancing, strengthening and building our workforce now and into the future."

- The Press

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