Developers in fight for central city

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 26/10/2012
One Cashel Square

PROPOSED DESIGN: Ocean Partners and Apollo Projects have proposed a design called One Cashel Square.

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Three groups are fighting for control of a prime riverside block in Christchurch's City Mall, with one releasing plans for an ambitious $200 million precinct.

Competing interests for the land include big developers, construction companies and New Zealand's biggest bank.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) had a Tuesday deadline for proposals that must cover at least 7500 square metres, or half a city block, in the core retail area.

The block, bordered by Cashel and Lichfield streets and Oxford Tce and Plymouth Ln, has more than a dozen individual landowners and is understood to be the subject of at least three proposals.

Approved applicants can obtain resource consent without owning any sites but would eventually need control of the land or agreement from owners to proceed.

None of the three projects has owners' full support.

"We are not sure which way the CCDU is going to go - they call the shots," said one, who declined to be named.

"And what if who they pick hasn't got the money? It's just too hard getting all the neighbours to agree, and some have put huge prices on their land to try to get more."

The Press has full details of one plan, a $200m precinct called One Cashel Square, with office buildings, shops and hospitality outlets around a public square. It would include laneways, airbridges and underground parking.

The proposal comes from Christchurch-based merchant bank Ocean Partners and construction managers Apollo Projects.

A second plan has been put forward by Westpac bank and a development giant, the Goodman Group, while a third involves the team behind the Re:Start container mall - Leighs Construction and an Australian-based architecture practice, the Buchan Group.

Goodman chief executive John Dakin confirmed the plan with Westpac, which he said was for a mixed-use development. "At this stage it's very conceptual."

Anton Tritt, of the Buchan Group, said it was hard for both developers and landowners to know what to expect.

"It's just unknown until Cera [the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, which runs the CCDU] say the way they want to go; then it's all up in the air," he said.

Rob Logie, of Leighs Construction, who is also a property owner on the block, described his group's proposal as "broad brush at this stage".

He expects to hear back from the CCDU today or on Monday.

"I don't think the news at this stage will be ‘you are the winners'. It's more likely they will want more details," he said.

The One Cashel Square precinct covers 8000sqm on more than 20 land titles in the hands of 13 owners.

The collaboration would involve local as well as overseas investors.

Tim Howe, of Ocean Partners said: "It's a very difficult process to get a whole lot of individual owners with different aspirations to participate."

He said about half the owners wanted to be part of the plan or had agreed to sell their sites.

He praised the minimum-size requirement - "It made people talk and people have had to consult with their neighbours" - and rated the chance of his project getting off the ground as "very high".

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Apollo Group chief executive Paul Lloyd feared some owners would hold projects to ransom by boosting asking prices for their land.

All owners were still paying rates and other costs and wanted their sites developed, but if plans did not work out, Cera might have to intervene, he said.

"Will we get to the stage where they step in and use the powers they have? I don't know," he said.

A Cera spokesman confirmed plans had been received but would not release details, citing commercial sensitivities.

"The CCDU is looking at the best outcomes for the retail precinct as a whole and will look at opportunities where one proposal may be able to enhance another," he said.

- The Press

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