Would you live in the city centre?

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 20/01/2014

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Cantabrians are willing to live in the central city before the rebuild is complete, a survey has found.

Opus Research has been working with the Christchurch City Council and Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority on a research project that could play a major role in how property owners develop central Christchurch.

The survey used a computer-assisted personal interviewing method to take 692 self-selected participants through scenarios of central-city living. Participants were guided through various stages of the rebuild and asked to prioritise housing, amenities and entertainment options.

About half said they would considering living centrally early in the rebuild.

Opus Research urban scientist Vivienne Ivory said it was encouraging people were keen to make the move "if the right conditions are available".

Participants prioritised amenities such as being able to shop for groceries in the central city, ahead of cinemas, galleries and nightclubs.

"People registered that they needed to be able to do the everyday stuff, and they wanted to be able to do it locally, rather than drive further afield," she said.

Cafes, open spaces and safety were among the priorities.

Ivory was surprised about 40 per cent of those surveyed had school-aged children. One-fifth were prepared to move into the city early in the rebuild.

"That means there is a diverse [property] market out there. If you just build a bunch of two-bedroom places or go for that temporary residence, you're actually missing out on a lot of potential market."

The "virtual experiment" was aimed at getting property owners, developers and policy-makers to "build the right thing" to attract residents and businesses.

"We could see there was going to be this gap between the vision that's been talked about by Christchurch people for what they want their central city to look like and how it's going to function within the wider city, and how it was going to get there," Ivory said.

The findings could determine the timing of certain projects, especially housing.

"There's a lot of talk from the supply side about what they'll be able to provide. What we're trying to do is, from the demand side, say what people need and the decisions they might make, including not coming into the central city until later on."

How developers would react to the research was "the big unknown", Ivory said. Some property owners had become unlikely developers because the earthquakes had forced them to rebuild. Not all were "innovators".

"There's a lot of people who don't know what they want and understandably they're going to need a lot of assistance to work that through."

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- The Press

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