$40m rebuild plan for The Strip

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 29/08/2012

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Construction of a $40 million restaurant and bar precinct to replace the Oxford Tce Strip could begin next year.

Plans for the hospitality precinct, which will be the central city's first since The Strip, SOL Square and Poplar St were destroyed in the February 2011 earthquake, will be presented to the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) for approval within a couple of months.

Antony Gough, whose family owns most of The Strip and several adjacent properties, is determined to be the "first off the block" with a major central-city development and is drawing up plans for the precinct.

The precinct will front on to the Avon River and will have retail outlets in the vacant lots at the rear through to the City Mall.

Gough said he hoped to have the plans ready to submit to the CCDU for approval by October, with the aim of construction beginning early next year.

"We've got the foot on the accelerator and are on the way," he said.

"We want to get started as soon as we can, but realistically it will probably be April before we can start building."

The project was likely to cost about $40m and would initially involve construction of bars and restaurants along Oxford Tce. The rest of the development would be done in stages, depending on demand and cashflow.

Gough said his family - named as Canterbury's richest family in the National Business Review's 2012 rich list with an estimated wealth of $300m - wanted to focus their efforts in one area of the central business district and hoped to put insurance money from some of their other central-city properties into the new precinct.

They were still working through the tax implications of doing that.

The Strip has been closed to the public since the February quake.

Gough originally thought some of the buildings along The Strip could be saved, but geotechnical investigations last year revealed the quake had irreparably damaged the foundations. They are now being pulled down.

Arrow International has been engaged to draw up plans.

Gough said Arrow, whose recent projects include the $220m Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, had been given a broad brief because the family were open-minded about the design of the new precinct and did not want to "stifle their creative juices".

Gough said they were clear about their target market. "It is not going to be aimed at 18 to 22-year-olds; it's going to be aimed at more mature people who don't want to be jostled by people in jandals."

The Strip in its early years was marred by problems with young revellers being drunk and disorderly, but the pre-quake opening of venues like the Bangalore Polo Club and Liquidity saw a shift towards a more mature clientele, which Gough said he was keen to recapture with his new bars and restaurants.

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Under the terms of the CCDU's Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, the new bars and restaurants will have to be set back 30 metres from the Avon River.

Their design will have to be approved by an urban design panel comprising representatives of the CCDU, the Christchurch City Council and Ngai Tahu.

- The Press

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