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Rebuild 'at a turning point'

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 03/06/2014

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The rebuild of Christchurch's CBD is finally starting to happen, city leaders and investors say.

After a rocky few months where parts of the recovery blueprint looked like they were failing, a series of positive announcements are being labelled by some as the turning point of the rebuild.

Vodafone is expected be confirmed today as the anchor tenant of the innovation precinct, and at least two other private sector developments are in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, rumours that British high street chain Topshop could be coming to Christchurch are not being denied.

Earlier this month, Christchurch's Carter Group announced it would rebuild the Crossing car parking building, providing much-needed certainty for would-be developers in the retail precinct.

The promised multimillion-dollar overhaul of the central city transport network was finally approved by the Christchurch City Council last week, and consultation with affected property owners and businesses would soon start.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said "key commercial arrangements" had been cemented recently and he expected more positive news to land in the coming months.

Christchurch was home to many developers and investors with "passionate views about wanting to make progress".

"I wouldn't call this the turning point, I would say it's another step that we always expected to happen," he said.

But Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend believed "things are starting to crystallise" in the central city.

Townsend also expected more positive announcements from both the private and public sector soon.

"I think we will find more information coming out of the Christchurch Central Development Unit that will promote investor confidence, and we will be hearing about some private sector developments in the central city too."

Carter Group chief executive Mary Devine said the city was "at a turning point", especially after its car-parking agreement with the council.

Carter Group bought the Crossing car park land off the council, and will manage the demolition of the existing building before building a 534-space car parking facility.

Devine said Carter Group was now "running flat out" with final design and planning of its $100 million Crossing development.

"I think we have more certainty now and we've got projects like the justice and emergency services precinct, the bus exchange, and [several private sector developments] all under way."

Council finance committee chairman Cr Raf Manji believed there had been a "change of focus" in the city recently, with more pressure to "make things happen" in the last three months.

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"I think that people have started to realise that if we don't start delivering, we might as well pack up and go home."

The council was "pretty close" to making a decision on the Lichfield St car park, which would ensure parking on the west side of the retail precinct.

"The first six months of this year were always going to be quite hard work and I think by the end of the year everything will be clearer," Manji said.

Christchurch investor and developer Ernest Duval, who also fronts the City Owners Rebuild Entity group, agreed the rebuild was starting to accelerate but said people's confidence in the blueprint had been "dented".

"And it needs to be restored, as many property owners are wanting to see greater certainty in the CBD before embarking on their own projects."

Delays and lack of information around some of the anchor projects needed to be resolved.

While Duval believed the west side was progressing well, there were "unanswered questions" in the east of the CBD, including the eastern frame where there had been "minimal activity other than demolitions".

- The Press

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