CBD rebuild to hit milestone

GREEN SHOOTS: Signs of the rebirth of the CBD are beginning tp emerge as construction promises to outpace demolition.
GREEN SHOOTS: Signs of the rebirth of the CBD are beginning tp emerge as construction promises to outpace demolition.

Construction is the CBD has been slow, but many private and Crown-led projects are either under way or beginning this year. Marc Greenhill reports.

Construction is set to outstrip demolition in central Christchurch for the first time in three years.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority has completed about 970 full or partial demolitions since the February 2011 earthquake, while in December last year, $281 million of building consents were issued for new buildings across the city - up 117 per cent on December 2012.

Sod was last month turned on the justice and emergency services precinct, and nine of the 16 anchor projects will have begun in some form this year. More than 60 per cent of the land required has been purchased.

New private developments have become more visible and a host of new office workers will be making the daily commute into the central city by 2015.

The Issac Theatre Royal plans to reopen in October, while at the Arts Centre, the gymnasium will reopen about May/June. The Great Hall restoration will be in its final stages by this time next year and public access to the north and south quads is expected.

Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) director Warwick Isaacs said the CCDU's work was complemented by about $350 million of private sector development.

Despite concerns raised by big- name property players about the viability of the CBD, Isaacs said there was "obvious growing reinvestment" by the private sector. "Holes in the ground are starting to appear - a lot more than there were last year," he said.

The most advanced project - the Avon River precinct - should be completed to beyond Antony Gough's Terrace development by its scheduled first-stage opening in November.

"Our intention is to keep pushing around the river as hard as we possibly can," Isaacs said.

The Margaret Mahy Amazing Place playground, on the Centennial Pool site, could be completed by Christmas. Design was underway and equipment suppliers were being sought.

Expressions of interest for residential development in the eastern frame will be released this month. Up to 800 units from one- bedroom studios to family-sized town houses are envisaged, with about 50 metres of greenspace down the frame's length.

The CCDU was "open to anything from anybody" about what could be achieved, Isaacs said.

Land for the convention centre opening onto Cathedral Square will start to be cleared this year, including demolition of the central library. The start of groundwork this year was a possibility.

The health precinct will begin to take shape with road closures, traffic flow changes and the widening of Manchester St.

Full demolition of the former civic offices on Tuam St, expected to begin in April, will be a catalyst for progress on the new bus interchange.

In the justice and emergency services precinct, eight Olympic- sized swimming pools of soil must be excavated before being replaced with 2500 tonnes of cement to remediate the ground.

Design and consultation with future users of the metro sports facility is well-advanced and earthworks should begin this year.

Former City Mall landowners Gough and Nick Hunt have started their retail precinct developments.

The CCDU was keen to see Re:Start mall relocate within the precinct while the major rebuild took place, Isaacs said.

"What we don't want is for Re:Start to disappear, everything to get built and people have forgotten there was retail there because there's been a bit of a gap," he said.

Isaacs was expecting "good announcements" this year about tenants and developers matching up in the innovation precinct. Construction could begin later this year. Environment Canterbury had begun building in the south frame and negotiations with landowners finalised.

The Press