Re:Start mall vital to CBD - backers

RE:START MALL: The container mall has been popular with locals and tourists.
RE:START MALL: The container mall has been popular with locals and tourists.

One of the founders of Christchurch's Re:Start container mall is vowing to "fight hard" to keep the popular shopping centre open.

The Press this week reported the complex may close in April to allow landowners to progress permanent development plans.

City councillor Paul Lonsdale, a Re:Start founder and the centre manager before his election, said the mall was "absolutely vital" to bring visitors to the inner city, and a symbol of hope that the inner city could be revitalised.

"Imagine if it wasn't there. Imagine how people would have felt about the inner city. There would certainly be a lot less confidence in the rebuild," he said.

Lonsdale said "all hope is not lost" for possible relocation of the mall or a lease extension.

There had been conversations with the Christchurch Central Development Unit and Christchurch City Council about the possibility of relocating the mall, but he would not comment on how negotiations were progressing.

"There is a desire to ensure Re:Start is going to carry on in some form or another. How that looks and how it pans out is another story altogether."

If the mall was to be relocated, Lonsdale said a stable longer-term home was needed.

He had discussed sites within a block of Ballantynes.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said closing Re:Start would be devastating for Christchurch tourism.

"It would be like we're shutting the city down in a tourism sense."

Hunter supported "any efforts to keep it open".

"Given the amount of land that's empty in the city, surely there are solutions to shifting it."

The Press understands relocation would cost about $1 million.

Hunter said the post-quake loss of tourism spending in Christchurch was $200m to $300m.

Spending $1m to retain Re:Start would be "absolutely worth it", he said.

"We need to find a solution to this, and want the powers-that-be to take this very seriously," he said.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel said Re:Start had been a "stand-out success" for the city.

She could not commit council funding, but was "happy to meet with the business association in the new year to see what options can be explored."

Lonsdale said central city businesses "would become an island" and lose customers without Re:Start.

Ballantynes executive director Philip Richards said losing Re:Start would have a negative effect on the business, but he did not believe closure was "imminent or likely".

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority would not comment on whether it would provide financial support for the mall's relocation.

Re:Start chairman John Suckling said this week the mall had permission to stay until April 22, 2014 - a month later than its earlier March deadline.

He was pushing hard for the mall to be able to stay until 2015. He would like it to stay rather than face the high costs of relocation.

Relocation would be considered if staying was not an option.

"If there is a good site, that is close to Ballantynes, and someone was able to finance it, then we would do it," Suckling said.

He would not comment on specific figures for relocation costs, but said it would be "substantial".

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted Re:Start chairman John Suckling as saying the mall had permission to stay open to June 2014. The mall will be open until April 22, 2014.

The Press