New Regent on Avon?

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2013

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The Government is in talks to possibly extend New Regent St to the Avon River as the reopening of the historic Christchurch lane is delayed by another month.

Engineering works first postponed the reopening date from Christmas to February, but unexpected problems have pushed it back to March.

The owner of the tall building at the northern end of New Regent St is in talks with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) about using his land as a link from the street to the Avon River.

Glenn Taylor, of building owner Tailorspace Investments, said the building would be demolished as it was too earthquake-damaged to repair.

"We have had some initial discussions with Cera. Now we know the building is coming down, we can sit down and talk with them with a bit more certainty about river access," he said.

"It is only one option for us. We have not had formal talks, it is just initial discussions. I would say that they are keen."

Taylor said it would take about four months to demolish the 11-storey building.

A Cera spokeswoman said no decisions had been made. The team designing a new river park would consider a "variety of options".

Discussions on how design concepts for the park would be decided had only just started, she said.

New Regent St has been closed since the February 2011 quake, but owners are working to strengthen, refurbish and reopen the 38 shops, bars and restaurants.

They had hoped to reopen by Christmas, but the project was delayed by engineering works and unexpected problems. The opening date was pushed back to February and has now moved to March.

Most New Regent St shop owners have united under a restoration project led by construction company Naylor Love.

A Christchurch family is restoring their five units with a different contractor and two other owners are restoring their shops independently.

The owner of the five units said she did not know when their restoration would be complete and declined to comment further.

Naylor Love project manager Ed Leeson said unexpected problems slowed restoration work.

"We are three weeks later than we thought we would be. Things kept cropping up that we couldn't account for. Things like when you touched a wall, half the plaster would fall off. We found floors and joists that weren't level and joists that weren't attached to walls."

The units would be ready for owners at the end of this month, Leeson said, but fit-out work and street repairs would take another month, pushing the opening date into March.

David Manning, who owns four units on New Regent St, said new tenants had signed up for the reopening.

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"We are getting pretty close to completion. The next stop is tenancy. We are getting steady inquiries. Two or three have signed up," he said.

New Regent St, completed in 1931, is one of the largest examples of Spanish Mission-style architecture in New Zealand.

PARK TIMETABLE

December 2012: Design team announced for new Avon River park.

March 2013: Deadline for concept design.

June 2013: Construction set to begin on first stages of new river park.

2016: Approximate completion date.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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