Government agencies commit to CBD

MARTA STEEMAN
Last updated 05:00 24/10/2012

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About 2500 Government workers will be returning to the rebuilt Christchurch central city, a government paper reveals.

The bulk of the public servants will be housed in two or three large buildings, a plan designed to showcase the Government's leaner property strategies shows.

Property developers and their agents have hailed the Government's commitment to return to the CBD as "absolutely magic" but are unhappy with it wanting only six to eight-year leases with a right of renewal.

However, public servants' workspaces will be modest and tighter than before the earthquakes. The document for investors says the Government is looking to lease about 17,450 square metres in the new CBD. About two-thirds of that, 12,000sqm, would preferably be in two or three buildings near the planned Justice Precinct. The plan is to concentrate about 2500 public sector workers into fewer sites and indicates employees may have at least a third less work space.

The offices have to be good quality but have "an emphasis on functionality and modesty in aesthetics".

Christchurch will be "a demonstration project for wider application to government accommodation strategies".

While civil servants around the country have on average 21.5sqm each, Christchurch workers may only have 13sqm.

The Government intends also to make permanent "alternative workplace practices" the earthquakes threw up out of necessity.

Some of these are co-location of agencies which shared facilities such as cafes, meeting rooms and bathrooms, hot desking and desk sharing and working from home.

Ngai Tahu Property chief executive Tony Sewell said the Government's commitment to return was "absolutely magic".

"They are a key part of the office environment. I think they are being a bit tough seeking leases from six to eight years," Sewell said.

It would cost about $100 million to build 17,450 sqm of office space and it was effectively asking developers to put up that much for a six to eight-year leasing commitment

"I don't know if I would be prepared to do that. I'd expect something like 16 to 18 years," Sewell said. "I think the Government has to show more faith in the Canterbury economy than taking six to eight-year leases on buildings."

The document indicated the government agencies expected to lease the first floor and above floors of buildings in the retail precincts, he said.

Colliers International general manager Jonathan Lyttle said the six to eight-year tenancies would be a challenge because most landlords wanted longer.

Lyttle said the modest appearance of the government offices might run counter to the wish for smart buildings in the central city. "Good luck getting past the urban design panel with that," he said.

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The commercial property sector had been waiting for the Government to put its stake in the ground on the CBD.

"It's something a lot of our clients will be responding to," Lyttle said.

The idea was for the government to be anchor tenants in the retail precincts. Developers required a certain

amount of the space to be tenanted before committing to a build, Lyttle said.

The document outlines nine spaces of varying sizes required in the CBD. The biggest is 8000sqm in one or two connected buildings and another 4000sqm co-located in the big building or in another building near it.

Smaller spaces are also needed where the government agency can be in a building with other tenants.

The Government will release more detailed specifications next month and expects to be negotiating agreements next June to August.

- The Press

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