Investors in tussle over City Mall plans

18:56, Apr 15 2013

Two contenders battling to develop a prime City Mall block now stand in each other's way after buying up land.

The standoff has arisen as a fifth plan emerges for the riverside site, and as the Government confirms its reluctance to intervene in the battle.

The tussle is for the prized land between Cashel and Lichfield streets and Oxford Tce.

Leighs Construction and Ocean Partners, both with consented plans but not enough land to carry them out, have both just made purchases.

Ocean Partners have bought the vacant DTZ site on the corner of Cashel St and Oxford Tce from investor Miles Middleton, after their purchase of the nearby Canterbury Lodge site in Lichfield St.

Yesterday Leighs Construction finalised deals to buy two properties - developer Richard Diver's former Bog and Mad Cow pub sites in Cashel St and Oxford Tce, and an Oxford Tce apartment building next door.

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The sales mean both contenders are now preventing each other's projects from going ahead unless one buys the other out.

The Leighs' plan, approved a fortnight ago, is for five buildings up to seven storeys with two laneways. Leighs also has a contract to buy the property on the Lichfield St-Oxford Tce corner, and are negotiating with other owners on the block.

"We are quite confident - we control a large amount of land, far more than anybody else does," said project head Anthony Leighs.

"We believe we have the ability to have this fantastic development kick off in the very, very near future."

He was not ready to release pictures of his development, and declined to pinpoint his source of money except to say that he was confident of funding.

Ocean Partners' head Tim Howe was also confident of completing his One Conference Square project, calling the DTZ site "the jewel in the crown" of the mall block.

However, he conceded his full plan may not be possible.

"You can't rule out some sort of hybrid plan. We obviously need willing landowners to sell . . . it's more difficult than we thought."

Meanwhile, leasing agent Brendan Chase is finalising his master plan for the same land before it goes for approval.

Chase does not own land on the block nor intend to buy any, but said he would co-ordinate individual owners building to a master plan from architects Warren and Mahoney.

Another contender is Goodman Property Group, which has gone quiet since receiving resource consent late last year, and did not respond to a Press request for an update.

It is believed Goodman's anchor tenant, Westpac, has switched its interest to the Leighs project.

Anthony Leighs said he had a deal with a tenant he would describe only as a "major corporate".

The fourth plan may come from Peter Guthrey, who owns the Guthrey Centre land next to Ballantynes and is understood to be drawing up plans for the rest of the block.

Earlier this year landowners on the block called for government action, saying the development impasse was delaying a key recovery project.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) wrote to all the owners last week, stressing that it would only step in as a last resort.

"We consider competition in the market to be a good thing and the CCDU will watch with interest to see which [plan] prevails," CCDU head Warwick Isaacs said.

The Press