City build plans 'too risky' for Cristo

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 22/03/2014

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Another would-be developer is selling up after abandoning building plans in central Christchurch.

Owner Cristo Ltd has given up on trying to develop four neighbouring vacant sites in Cathedral Square and Gloucester St.

They are the second developer to step away from the land, which includes the site of the old Press building.

"It's too risky to develop. Things haven't moved forward in the CBD and it's been a very difficult process," said Cristo spokesman Stephen Bell.

"The main problem is the lack of progress."

Bell said optimism over developing the land had turned to disappointment. After trying several plans, Cristo is investing instead in a finished Addington building.

The land covers almost a third of a hectare and based on current prices is worth in excess of $6 million. It is the second time it has been on the market since the quakes.

Construction company Ganellen owned the block during the quakes and had released ambitious building plans.

But it failed to make them work and sold the land to Cristo, a Christchurch family group of investors.

Others to have put central city sites up for sale over development frustrations include Angus McFarlane, who owned much of the block between Armagh, Gloucester and New Regent streets, Michael Ogilvie-Lee, who sold the Triangle Centre site, and Miles Middleton, who sold his City Mall land and bought an Auckland office building.

Developers say developing in the central city barely stacks up, with construction costs high and tenants reluctant to return from the suburbs to higher rents.

Those who have made it work include rich listers and those with large insurance cheques.

Noel Gilchrist of Colliers, one of the realtors marketing the Cristo land, has had "blimmin' good" inquiries, from local, national and overseas buyers. He thought it would suit hotels or apartments, but said developing in central Christchurch now was "not for the faint-hearted".

"I think we will end up with someone from out of town - someone who views the central city as ultimately coming back."

Cristo's land surrounds the new Press House in Gloucester St, which Cristo owns and will retain. The company also owns the partly-demolished former BNZ building on the other side of Cathedral Square, but has not confirmed whether it will sell it after losing government tenants for a planned rebuild.

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- The Press

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