Battle for City Mall steps up

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 13:32 29/11/2012
Te Putahi

CONTENDER: The architect's original impression of the $350 million Westpac-Goodman office and retail project proposed for central Christchurch.

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The battle for Christchurch's City Mall is hotting up, with one of three competing developers' plans for a key riverfront site clearing a major hurdle.

The $200 million-plus plan, drawn up by Australian giant Westpac Bank and property developer Goodman Group to run from the Bridge of Remembrance to Ballantynes department store, has been approved, in part, by a panel of commissioners.

However, the developers will need to buy or gain rights to about 18 individually owned properties to build the project, a complex of six office and retail buildings.

While awarding a resource consent, the commissioners knocked back aspects, such as one of the buildings jutting over Oxford Tce. The extension would have required permanently closing the road, a move understood to have upset landowners concened about access to their properties.

The decision will send the Westpac-Goodman plan back to the drawing board because of the loss of the riverfront projection, a key design feature of the proposal.

The commisioners - a panel from the Christchurch City Council,  the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) and Ngai Tahu - also said the project could not use the chosen name of Te Putahi without Ngai Tahu's agreement.

Under earthquake rebuild rules, development plans for the city's core retail area must cover at least 7500 square metres, and need not be submitted by landowners. Competing plans for the same sites may be approved, leaving developers to battle over control of land.

A second plan for the same City Mall site - from merchant bank Ocean Partners and project manager Apollo Group - is being heard by the commissioners today, with a decision due on Monday. That plan is for a complex of buildings around a green square, running as far as Plymouth Ln.

A third plan has come from Leighs Construction and architects Buchan Group, the team behind the Re:Start container mall.

As well, a consortium of the Ballantyne, Carter and Guthrey families has submitted a plan for its land which overlaps with the Westpac-Goodman design at one end and runs through to High St at the other.

Tim Howe, of Ocean Partners, was confident his proposal would be approved as it complied with the CCDU blueprint for the city rebuild.

''We expect it to be approved by Monday - then we're back where we were a couple of weeks ago and it's up to the landowners to make a decision.''

Howe said the Westpac-Goodman plan had lost its ''wow factor''.

''The plan as they submitted can't be implemeted now.''

Westpac's head of property Murray Dobson said the firm was pleased to have been given the green light.

"This is the first phase of the approval process but there is obviously still a long way to go."

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee made an urgent change to the rules last week to allow the commissioners to consider multiple and overlapping plans after the competing interests became apparent. The resource consents will not be publicly notified and cannot be appealed.

The CCDU has indicated it does not want to choose winning plans or step in and buy land in the core retail zone, leaving decisions up to landowners.

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- The Press

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