Land prices shrink Christchurch's south frame

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Increasing land prices have forced the Government to scale back its plan for a green belt in Christchurch's city centre, leaving landowners in an "appalling" situation.

Landowners say the changes to the south frame, which have reduced the proposed public spaces by more than half, have left them in limbo and they believe the Government has run out of money and ideas.

The frame, which includes the health and innovation precincts, was touted as a public space with cycle lanes and walkways.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) maintains the vision is unchanged since the central city blueprint was released in July 2012.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the land from Madras St to Hagley Ave, between Tuam and St Asaph streets, became expensive post-quake so the decision was made to allow owners to operate as usual.

However, some car dealerships in the middle three blocks of the frame have been forced to buy new land after months of not knowing if their properties would be purchased by the Crown.

Angus Cockram, managing director of Cockram Motor Group, said it seemed the Government had "run out of money and ideas".

"There has been a U-turn, no matter what they say.

"Something has happened that's made them change their intention with the south frame . . . we just don't know what."

The CCDU has spent $25 million purchasing land for public works in the frame (excluding the innovation and health precincts) but the land designation has been fully, or partially, lifted on 54 per cent of the properties. The final plan for the frame is still to be developed.

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Cockram said the CCDU had not been transparent during discussions with those affected and many car dealerships - which account for a large proportion of the land originally designated - had been left unsure about their future.

"It's been a protracted, frustrating process. We've been in negotiations [with the CCDU] for years but we've never been offered any money for our sites."

Cockram said the Crown had decided to remove the designation on most of his land but wanted to put a laneway through the block, "basically splitting our dealerships up".

"They should stick to what they originally said they were going to do. Buy the land, compensate people and turn it into public spaces."

Brownlee said he was "by and large" happy with the south frame's progress.

"Discussions we've had with various landowners where it's been decided that we won't go ahead with the purchase have often been related to the value that is now seen in the land by the owners."

The Crown had been "as fair as possible" when dealing with land purchases.

"The goal was to contain the commercial area [of the CBD] and I think that's been achieved."

Brownlee described it as a "chicken and egg situation", saying land prices were restored because of the blueprint and the promise of development.

The Crown was purchasing pieces of land to enable the construction of laneways.

"But [we've] become more flexible about acquiring the entire south frame simply because at some point you've got to be a bit responsible with taxpayers' money."

CCDU acting director Baden Ewart said the original vision was for a campus-style area boasting a range of business, health and education uses, along with "public

space corridors and cyclist and pedestrian links".

"Since the blueprint was launched, the project team has better identified the land required to deliver on the vision for the south frame," he said.

John Hutchinson, of Team Hutchinson Ford, said the plan for the south frame came "pretty early on and . . . was a bit of a dream".

"The reality is that it would never make sense to spend millions of dollars to turn it into green space. The commercial reality was always going to come through at some point."

Christchurch City councillor Yani Johanson said the council had been "forced" to vote to construct a cycle path across the entrance of the new bus interchange because the "south frame cycleway clearly isn't going to happen".

"If they were going to use it for a cycleway to connect the city . . . then the council would have had other options but we didn't."

SHRINKING SOUTH FRAME

When the blueprint was released, 113 properties were designated in the south frame anchor project, which includes the health and innovation precincts.

● 51 properties in the south frame (the middle three blocks) designated

● 17 properties in the health precinct designated

● 45 properties in the innovation precinct designated

The Crown has spent $37 million buying land and building in the entire south frame

●$25m in the middle three blocks

●$7.5m in the innovation precinct

● $4.5m in the health precinct

The designation has been partially or fully removed from 60 properties:

● 28 properties no longer designated in the south frame

● 25 properties in the innovation precinct 

● 7 properties in the health precinct

 - The Press

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