Stadium site eyed for prefab homes

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2014
Christchurch stadium
Christchurch Central Recovery Plan
HOPEFUL PLAN: The Madras St side of the Christchurch Stadium site may soon house hundreds of prefabricated apartments.
Ian Cassels
KENT BLECHYNDEN/FAIRFAX NZ
SIMPLE SOLUTION: Ian Cassels with his prototype prefabricated apartment.

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Land earmarked for Christchurch's new sports stadium is being touted as a potential site for hundreds of prefabricated apartments planned for the central city.

The two-bedroom apartments would be trucked onsite, bolted together into blocks up to three storeys high, and could be shifted as needed.

The man behind the plan is Wellington property developer Ian Cassels, who owns a large chunk of the site designated for Christchurch's new stadium in Madras St.

Cassels wants to build and rent out about 700 apartments in each of Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. He calls them City Blox.

"There's a huge need in Christchurch - it addresses some of the issues the city has. It can't solve Christchurch but it's one answer. The wonderful thing is they don't have to be on one site forever," he said.

The moveable nature of the units made them "perfect" for Christchurch, Cassels said.

Starting this year, they would be made in a Christchurch factory, of locally-made or imported components. Economies of scale meant they could be produced for about $130,000 each.

"Christchurch is full of people wanting to build something large like the Taj Mahal - but it's not affordable. We need transitional solutions like this," he said.

Cassels' company has been working on the concept for several years and the design is in the final stages of multi-proof consent from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. This means building consent is automatically approved anywhere in New Zealand and only land-use consents are required, speeding up construction.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel had not heard of Cassels' plan until told of it by The Press yesterday, but said it sounded fantastic. "I can't wait to see what he has got in mind."

The council was keen to promote multi-proof consents for the city, as they saved time by not replicating work to approve each home, Dalziel said.

Cassels said the likelihood of successfully bringing his concept to Christchurch was "extremely high". Rents could be as low as $300 a week, depending on location and costs.

"The prefab concept has bad connotations. This is high-quality housing, extremely well built, just assembled in a factory like cars or fridges. They could last 100 years."

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Cassels was keen to put apartments on his Madras St property, removing them later to make way for the stadium. He was hunting for alternative sites to lease within the four avenues, in case that plan proved "too hard".

The Madras St land could take hundreds of City Blox if landscaped well, while smaller sites might only take 18 each, he said. The East Frame was another possible location.

The units will have two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, bathroom and deck, on a 72-square-metre floorplan. A prototype has already been built in Wellington, where the first City Blox will be assembled in the next few months.

Cassels heads The Wellington Company, which has been responsible for major residential and commercial developments in the capital. Described as "a leader and a visionary", he has been credited with revitalising parts of central Wellington.

He is the brother of Christchurch developer Alasdair Cassels, whose post-quake projects have included the Brewery and CBD restaurant-bars, Gustav's restaurant and the Victorian-style Tannery shopping centre.

- The Press

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