Old cop shop site sparking interest

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 08:36 08/04/2014
Hereford St police station
Kirk Hargreaves/Fairfax NZ
COMING DOWN: The former Christchurch police station building on Hereford St has been abandoned after staff refused to work in the building due to quake concerns.

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Ngai Tahu Property's decision to demolish the former Christchurch central police station has sparked interest about the prime city site's future use.

Tony Sewell, chief executive of Ngai Tahu Property (NTP), which owns the 13-storey building, said that after "just reaching a final agreement" with its insurer, the Hereford St building would be demolished.

NTP owns the block bordered by Montreal, Hereford and Cashel streets and Cambridge Tce - an area of about 15,500 square metres. Sewell said it was too early to comment on development plans.

The company has advertised for expressions of interest from demolition contractors.

Jonathan Lyttle, Christchurch general manager for Colliers, said NTP "had the skills to do something special" with the site.

He thought developing an office building for top-paying tenants might be risky. "We've got rising interest rates and questionable demand for A-grade office space."

He did not believe shops would be a good fit for the site because of its proximity to the retail precinct.

"From a central city point of view, and with the push for residential, it could be a mixed-use development or high-end residential.

"What is certain though is that this will hold everyone's interest until they announce their future plans."

Chris Harding, from commercial real estate firm Jones Lang Lasalle, said the Hereford St site was "definitely A-grade office space" material.

"The city has moved to the right of the river and there's still a few tigers out there . . . so when they come to town, it's good to have somewhere to park them."

The site's location near the Christchurch City Council offices, the Avon River Precinct and the Bridge of Remembrance made it both a historical and sought-after spot, he said.

Police moved out of the building after doubts about its ability to stand up to further large earthquakes.

Last year a multimillion-dollar rent claim against police by Ngai Tahu was settled in a confidential deal. When police moved out of the building, they terminated the lease, which was to run to June 2017.

Ngai Tahu Justice Holdings, a Ngai Tahu Property subsidiary, filed High Court proceedings claiming nearly five years' rent for the abandoned building. The court suspended the case so that arbitration could be pursued.

Police and Ngai Tahu agreed to end the lease "on mutually satisfactory terms" without the need for arbitration, a police spokesman said.

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A $20 million temporary police station in St Asaph St was officially opened last year. Rates information on the council website shows the Hereford St site has a rateable value of $17.3m.

Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers will manage the demolition, which Sewell hoped would be completed by Christmas. Expressions of interest close on April 11.

- The Press

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