Cathedral square remains civic heart

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 18:00 30/07/2012
Cathedral Square 2008

MEMORIES: The Cathedral Square Christchurch, pictured in 2008.

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Cathedral Square stays as the civic heart of Christchurch under the rebuild plan but will get a make-over.

Exactly what will happen is still up in the air, pending a final decision on the fate of the quake-damaged Christ Church Cathedral, but the Square will become greener with trees, grass and water features used to soften the area.

And a new public library will be built on the edge of the Square, where the Camelot Hotel once stood, giving people added reason to come in and enjoy the square's wide open spaces.

The existing Christchurch Central Library, in Gloucester Street, was badly damaged in the February 2011 quake but the city council was planning on repairing it, at a forecast cost of $8.8m over two years.

However, under the Central Christchurch Development Unit (CCDU) blueprint the site of the existing library will be swallowed up by the planned new convention centre.

There are no details yet as to how big the new library-on-the-Square will be or how much it will cost.

In another move likely to re-ignite old debates in Christchurch the Square will be closed to through traffic.

"There will be [road access for the] servicing of the hotels ... and if you want to go to church you can get close ... but we're closing it to the buses that roar through and everyone driving through.

"We want the Square to be very much the civic heart of the city,'' said CCDU director Warwick Isaacs.

It was planned that Cathedral Square would continue to be the main venue for civic events and festivals, with activities at night and during the day making the place a lively gathering area where people could meet friends, eat lunch, enjoy a stroll, be entertained, or simply just sit and think.

Isaacs said thought had been given to building a big underground carpark under the Square but the idea had been ruled out.

"We did look at underground carparking in the Square but it was just too expensive. We thought a thousand car carpark under the Square would be fantastic but it was just prohibitive, particularly with the water table being so high.''

With some 2.8ha of land in the Square already in public ownership Isaacs said there were no plans at this stage to buy any further property in the area.

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