Progress at last for Christchurch's lower High St as developers launch heritage rescue
Plans to rescue historic buildings in Christchurch's lower High St should reopen the only block still closed since the 2011 earthquakes.
A company headed by developer Richard Peebles has bought eight of the adjoining brick Duncan's Buildings which were left in a precarious state by the earthquakes.
Its Duncans Lane development will combine boutique shops with cafes and bars opening onto both High St and a new lane behind them.
The historic facades will be repaired and restored while propped up with frames the company previously used to support its nearby McKenzie and Willis redevelopment. Behind the facades, the brick buildings will be demolished and rebuilt with concrete, recycled bricks and steel.
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"I thought we could retain the ones that had previously been strengthened, but no was the answer," Peebles said.
"We are effectively rebuilding what was there. We hope people will think they are just restored old buildings."
The company, Duncans Lane Ltd, bought seven of the buildings from Crown company Otakaro in January, and the eighth privately. It has now applied for resource consent for the project. The work will involve removing and later replanting street trees.
There will be eight shops at street level, with office spaces upstairs.
Under a deal made last year with a group of retail precinct developers who started High Court action over fears of competition, the company's directors agreed to create only small retail tenancies on the block.
Peebles hoped the tenants would include businesses who had been in the buildings before the earthquakes. The strip then housed a combination of boutiques, cafes, and stores selling vintage and one-off items.
"We've got a few interested parties that we're working with. It's like a giant jigsaw," he said.
On either side of the eight buildings, the surviving 1905 Duncan's buildings are mostly being restored by individual owners, while the razed Billens building is being rebuilt by developers the Stockman group.
The strip is part of the city's innovation precinct, and backs onto the McKenzie and Willis redevelopment and laneways.