City Mall is 'absolutely fabulous'

MARTIN MOORE AND BEN HEATHER
Last updated 15:27 29/10/2011

Thousands flock to new City Mall

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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At least 10,000 shoppers and sightseers have visited the City Mall today - the first time the city has opened since February 22.

Mayor Bob Parker said about 7000 people had been at the mall gates for the midday opening ceremony and many more had visited this afternoon.

He said the opening had felt "inspirational". "It just felt so happy and incredibly emotional. I've spoken to a lot of people who felt the same way.

"There was a hunger, an almost extreme desire for people to be there and experience it and to laugh and smile. It was very, very happy."

The opening day was "a genesis moment" for the city, said Parker. "It is the beginning of the journey back."

Kat McCorkindale, owner of Hot Damn!, said it had been "great" to see everyone out.

Also "loving it" was Colin Johnson, of city icon Johnson's Grocery. "It's a lovely carnival atmosphere. Nothing will ever come up to this, everyone is in a happy mood, it's just great."

'Absolutely fabulous'

Shopper Bev Gilfedder said the mall was much better than she had expected. "It is absolutely fabulous, I'm just blown away. They talk about containers but you wouldn't think it to look at them."

Yoko Kishi-Rychkoba agreed it was "great" to be back. "I was originally not planning to come today because it would be so crowded, but I couldn't help myself."

Cindy Cunningham, of Loreal, said the tills were ringing. "It's a fantastic feeling."

Jo Fairclough was in the mall giving out free hugs while Noortje Bruins visited each store to give the owners flowers as a tribute to their "perseverance and community spirit''.

Juggler Brendan Dooley said he hoped to make some money "and try to cheer some people up".

Ribbon cut by Prime Minister John Key

Prime Minister John Key officially reopened the mall in Cashel Street at midday before thousands of people eager to see the city for the first time in eight months.

Many of the 27 businesses were opening for the first time since the February quake.

One of the first in was Redcliffs resident Paul Hammonds was away visiting family in the Middle East when the February earthquake hit. "My friends and family said 'don't go back'.

"But I want to stay here and help rebuild my city. This is a good initiative - we've got to make a start."

First St John call-out to CBD

St John has attended its first call-out in the Christchurch Central Business District since February 22.

A woman in her 70s fell over outside Ballantynes on the corner of Cashel and Colombo Streets at 1.46pm.

St John spokesman Ian Henderson said she had suffered leg and chest injuries and was taken to the Christchurch Hospital's emergency department by the rapid response vehicle.

She was in a moderate condition, he said.

"This is the first call out St John has attended in the CBD since 22 February."

Busking business

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Accordion player John Marshall said he had not been in the mall for 12 months. " I've just gotta get myself back into it."

George Cowper, owner of the Hummingbird Café, said the city could not have had better weather for the re-opening.

"And I think the architect has done an amazing job with the design.

"We're doing it properly or not at all, we're committed to Christchurch.

"You can see by the substance of the place it's not a five-minute project."

Frantic preparations finally over

Exhausted workers Kendall Lynch and Keith Sycamore of Plush were still carrying in stock just moments before the mall opened.

AJ of Hunters and Collectors said it had been a crazy last few days. "I haven't been to bed in 28 hours. It's exciting."

Lezanne Hugh of Leigh's Construction said staff had worked round-the-clock. "We've been here eight weeks doing 75 hour weeks. You can say it's 95% complete."

Colleague Aaron Tahuhu said the containers only started looking good in the last couple of days. "This is my city and I was lucky enough to get in with these guys from the beginning."

Builder Warren Tichborne said many builders had worked long hours to get the mall ready.

R&R Sports reopening project manager Andy Hyland said the store was lucky.

"The shop was in pretty good nick, we're a bit of an anomaly because we're the only building operating other than Ballantynes."

Hyland said it was an important day for Christchurch. "One great thing is that there's so much more light in here now."

Great day for Cantabrians

Key said the reopening was "great news for Cantabrians" and for retailers.

"This is an important step in re-opening the CBD red zone to residents and retailers alike, and gives more certainty to people as they look to the future of this great city."

The Restart initiative has seen most shops set up in temporary containers alongside the flagship Ballantynes department store.

The Restart the Heart Trust was given a $3.36 million interest-free loan from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal to fund the project.

The appeal fund was the Government's official fundraiser for the recovery effort in Christchurch and Canterbury and now has nearly $100 million in pledged and received funds.

- The Press

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