Christchurch's East Frame gets $1m bonus for transitional activities

Schoolkids having fun at Gap Filler's Dance-o-mat: The kind of transitional activity people value.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Schoolkids having fun at Gap Filler's Dance-o-mat: The kind of transitional activity people value.

Fletcher Living is spending $1 million on public "temporary use" projects so its central Christchurch East Frame housing development does not sit an idle wasteland for years.

This week, Crown agency Otakaro Ltd announced Fletcher would begin construction on what will be a 900-dwelling development to be built over nearly a decade.

The first 20 townhouses should be ready by 2018.

Otakaro has started work on a "linear park" to run down the centre of the East Frame – six city blocks compulsorily purchased by the Crown after the earthquakes.

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But as part of the deal, it is requiring Fletcher to make something of the remaining land while it is waiting to be developed.

Fletcher Living boss Steve Evans said after consulting with community organisations like Christchurch's Gap Filler, a seed fund is being set up.

"Fletcher Living is putting its money where its mouth is. We've committed $1m to place-making and temporary use activities. We're looking at how we are going to utilise those super-lots that we're not going to be building on for another five or six years."

Evans said one obvious use were sports playing surfaces such as a five-a-side soccer pitch or half-court basketball court. Community gardens were another.

Artist impression of first townhouses for Fletcher Living's 900-home East Frame project.
SUPPLIED/FLETCHER LIVING

Artist impression of first townhouses for Fletcher Living's 900-home East Frame project.

Evans added that getting locals coming to use the area was important for commercial reasons too as it would re-build an emotional connection for a part of the central city the earthquakes had wiped clean.

"We've got to create the market – create the confidence and enthusiasm which will get people back into the city," he said.

Ryan Reynolds, chair of Gap Filler and advisor for Life in Vacant Spaces (Livs), said the Fletcher announcement was good news, but he was waiting to see the full details.

"We did a proposal for how they could spend that money and get good community outcomes out of it. So I'm certainly hopeful."

However, Reynolds says an earlier attempt to negotiate for public use of the East Frame with Otakaro's predecessor, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), did not work out that well.

In 2014, Livs proposed a temporary restaurant run by celebrity chef Richard Till, community farm, and workshops for artists and craftspeople. In the end, Cera got cold feet. The worry then was the public might get "too attached" to the transitional activities.

News that Fletcher is finally to break ground on its East Frame homes comes among reports that residential developers have been struggling to stack up housing projects inside Christchurch's Four Avenues.

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