Mayor hails car park sale as 'circuit breaker'

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 22/05/2014
Lichfield parking development

NEW LOOK: An artist’s impression of a 534-space car parking building to replace the damaged Crossing building on Lichfield St. The Christchurch City Council has sold the site to the Carter Group, which will build the facility as part of its $100 million retail precinct development.

Lianne Dalziel and Mary Devine
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ
THE OLD: Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Carter Group chief executive Mary Devine in The Crossing car parking building on Lichfield St.

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A $100 million retail development in Christchurch's central city can go ahead after the sale of a damaged council-owned car parking building.

The Christchurch City Council has sold The Crossing car park to the Carter Group, which will build a new 534-space car parking building on the site.

The agreement is being hailed by Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel as a "circuit breaker" and critical to the success of the city's stalled retail precinct.

In December last year the Carter Group - headed by rich-lister Philip Carter - approached the council to take on the rebuild of the parking building.

Carter and other would-be developers have long claimed that uncertainty over the future of parking provision had been impeding projects and driving tenants away.

In the agreement, the council has sold the car park land to the Carter Group for market value, and the Carter Group has agreed to build a parking facility as part of its proposed $100m retail development.

Demolition of the existing building, which suffered major damage in the quakes, will start within a few weeks once council insurance assessors have signed it off.

Carter Group chief executive Mary Devine said the firm would manage the demolition on behalf of the council and would operate and maintain the building as a public car park for 50 years.

Dalziel said any insurance proceeds received for the building as part of the council's global insurance settlement would be kept by it.

Full details of the agreement are subject to a commercial confidentiality clause that expires late next year.

The existing 200-space Crossing car park was built after an agreement between Carter Group and the council in 1998.

"But we haven't been able to uphold our end of the bargain, to provide public car parking, since the earthquakes," Dalziel said yesterday.

"Finding a resolution in the context of not having ready access to our insurance payment and with increasing pressure from the retail precinct . . . has required great collaboration."

She said the agreement would spark business decisions and further investment in the city core.

Devine said the goal was to have the new building completed by November next year.

"We've got a tight deadline but I think we can do it." She said as well as underpinning the Carter Group's own development, the agreement would "unlock other development in the retail precinct and the CBD".

She said reaching an agreement had been a "long journey".

Council finance committee chairman Cr Raf Manji said the agreement ensured ratepayers' interests were protected while still upholding the council's commitments with the Carter Group.

Developer Antony Gough said the agreement would allow Carter to "hit the big green button" on his retail precinct development.

"This will really lift confidence I think and if people want to be where the action is then they need to get their chequebooks out and start moving."

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Gough, who is developing The Terrace on the other side of the precinct, believed uncertainty around car parking had been one of the biggest hold-ups in the central city so far.

Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) director Warwick Isaacs said he was "very pleased" about the progress made by the council and the Carter Group.

"Car-parking facilities will be a critical element of the retail precinct, and this announcement highlights the excellent progress the private sector is making," he said.

- The Press

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