Sites for 1700 public servants revealed
The shape of Christchurch's new central business district has started to emerge after Government decisions on housing public servants.
However, landowners warn there is no time to lose to secure the central city's future as a commercial hub.
Prime Minister John Key last week announced the Government's four preferred sites in and around the City Mall to house 1700 state-sector staff from 2016.
The identities of the sites are being kept under wraps while negotiations are in progress, but The Press has learnt they are:
- 2 Cathedral Square, the former BNZ House site.
- The former Hotel Grand Chancellor site in Cashel St.
- The Cashel Square block in Cashel, Hereford and Colombo streets.
- 164 Hereford St, the former National Bank site.
All the planned buildings are within 200 metres of each other facing either Cashel or Hereford streets and are near sites for the convention centre, justice precinct and bus interchange anchor projects.
Government representatives are in Christchurch until next week holding meetings with property owners. There is also understood to be a backup list.
Two of the preferred landlords are local - Cashel Square's Lichfield Holdings and BNZ House's Cristo Ltd.
The owner of 164 Hereford St, Devonia Holdings, is based in Sydney and Grand Chancellor site owner Grand Hotels International is in Singapore.
Devonia spokesman David Wallace said the Government wanted two-thirds of the planned seven storeys.
The news was expected to encourage private tenants, with business ranging from cafes to accountants eager to be near Crown offices.
"A lot of tenants will want to be near the Government because they do business with them or would like to," Wallace said.
Cashel Square developer Nick Hunt said he was "very cautiously optimistic".
"We're finally making a little bit of headway. It's good to get the Government showing some commitment and we're hoping for the best."
Hunt said he was "crawling forward" negotiating with other tenants and believed many would return when government offices were ready.
However, some felt the commitment had taken too long.
Jonathan Lyttle, managing director of commercial real estate firm Colliers, said that while the progress would seed development, the announcement "would've been better coming a year ago" before many businesses signed suburban leases.
The central city was now "back on the map", he said.
Cristo spokesman Stephen Bell would not confirm his Cathedral Square property was on the preferred list, but said he would be glad of any tenants, public or private
A lack of tenants, slowness of the rebuild, demolition delays and escalating building costs had been problematic.
"There have been huge time delays. I'm not tremendously optimistic," he said.
"The big problem is no tenant wants to be first in the city. That's holding everyone back, and with construction [prices] going up, cost is a prohibiting factor for tenants."
Twenty government departments will take 24,000 square metres in the chosen sites, including the Ministry of Social Development, ACC, Statistics New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the ministries of health and education, Housing New Zealand and the departments of internal affairs and conservation.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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