Hotspot's spark fails to reignite

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 05/08/2014
sol square

SOL SQUARE: Central city black hole.

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Sol Square is becoming a black hole in Christchurch's recovering central city.

The former late-night hotspot remains untouched and fenced off since the February 2011 earthquake and receivership issues and insurance battles have delayed its redevelopment.

The square between Lichfield, Manchester and Tuam streets was owned by Christchurch developer David Henderson until his company Tuam Ventures was placed into receivership by the BNZ in 2009.

The Press understands there is another offer on the square and negotiations are under way but details were unavailable yesterday.

The new bus interchange is being built on the same block, new hospitality businesses have opened in the Strange's building opposite the square, development plans are in place for the innovation precinct on the east side of Manchester St and a neighbouring landowner also has plans for a mixed use three-storey building.

All four buildings in the complex require repairs to make them safe.

Tony Carey owns the block on the Tuam-Manchester streets corner, next to the old Real Groovy building, and plans to develop a three-storey hospitality and office building centred around a courtyard.

The design required the use of an existing laneway behind former French cafe La Petite Croix and The Yellow Cross, he said.

"There's a total lack of action in SOL Square... it would be really good to see it start to move on."

He had asked the BNZ about progress but had not received a reply, he said.

Colliers agent Nick Doig said Carey's site was "starting to attract some good interest" and the development would go ahead regardless of SOL Square.

"It can certainly stand on its own two feet." However, pedestrian access would be via Struther's Lane in SOL Square.

"And complementary businesses and development would be great."

Doig said the south-east side of the CBD was starting to take off after recent activity - including Vodafone's announcement to anchor the innovation precinct - had boosted confidence.

BNZ appointed Stephen Tubbs from BDO Christchurch as the receiver to manage insurance claims with regard to Tuam Ventures.

A spokeswoman last week said negotiations with insurers and the Earthquake Commission were continuing and referred questions to the receiver.

The Press has contacted Tubbs for comment several times over the last 18 months but he has declined.

Christchurch bar owner and developer Max Bremner, who owned the leases of six bars in the square, had been trying to buy the buildings and the land since 2010 but late last year said the "fiscal Chernobyl" made him give up.

Most issues related to Henderson's lenders and creditors, some of whom had fallen into receivership, he said.

A Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) spokeswoman said the square buildings still had section 45 notices on them, meaning they were unsafe and could only be accessed for damage assessment, repairs or demolition.

TIMELINE

1998 - Ian Athfield, commissioned by the Christchurch City Council, produces a plan for the development of lanes between Lichfield, Tuam, St Asaph and High streets.

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2000 - David Henderson begins acquiring and developing properties and the area becomes SOL (South of Lichfield) Square.

August 2009 - PricewaterhouseCoopers appoints receivers to three companies owning six bars - Yellow Cross, Fat Eddie's, Cleaners Only, the Fish & Chip Shop, Vinum and La Petite Croix - at the request of DB Breweries. The bars continue to trade as normal.

December 2009 - Six SOL Square bars sold by receivers of Henderson to Max Bremner and Tane Norton.

March 2010 - Henderson's cornerstone company, Property Ventures, is put into receivership.

July 2010 - BNZ is owed more than $8 million and puts 179 Tuam St (SOL Square) up for mortgagee sale.

February 2011 - Earthquake damages buildings and puts SOL Square inside the central-city cordon.

January 2013 - Bremner and Christchurch developer Richard Peebles release their plans for the redevelopment of SOL Square.

November 2013 - The pair pull the plug after failed sale negotiations and financial headaches.

August 2014 - The Press understands there is an offer on SOL Square and negotiations are under way.

- The Press

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