Avon link appealing

Last updated 05:00 16/01/2013

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OPINION: When Christchurch people were invited to submit ideas in 2011 for the rebuilding of Christchurch in the city council's Share an Idea project, a heavy emphasis of the more than 90,000 submissions received was for the creation of plenty of green space and better use of the Avon River.

For the Garden City, it was not a surprising outcome. The ideas were taken up by the Central City Development Unit (CCDU), the entity set up within the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) last year and given 100 days to come up with a plan for Christchurch.

One of the most striking and warmly welcomed elements of its plan was for the development a park by the Avon.

The riverside park idea is still being developed, but the news yesterday that the removal of a badly damaged building in Armagh St may make it possible to link the park to New Regent St, one of the central city's most charming and popular streets, makes the prospect of it even more attractive.

The river park idea is an ambitious one. It is expected to take three years to build and it will probably cost several tens of millions of dollars. The final proposal has yet to be drawn up, but the lead consultants, combining local and international expertise, are the New Zealand project management firm Opus and a British design company, BDP.

The involvement of BDP in major projects such as a commercial centre in Liverpool and a large waterfront park in China promises much for the successful development of the idea into something that Christchurch will be proud of.

Cera's chief executive, Roger Sutton, says he looks forward to it being a "gutsy" park that will include what he calls an "outrageous" children's playground and be similar in concept to the waterfront spaces in Melbourne and Brisbane that many Christchurch people have visited and enjoyed.

A poll taken by The Press shortly after the CCDU blueprint incorporating the idea was unveiled showed it to be one of the most popular proposals contained in the blueprint for the rebuilding of the central city.

The possibility of linking it with New Regent St is by no means a done deal, but the prospect is an enticing one. Before the earthquakes, the riverside in that vicinity had long been popular, particularly with office workers at lunchtime in summer.

New Regent St, too, with its unique and quirky collection of Spanish-mission facades, behind which a mix of boutique shops, bars and cafes flourished, 38 in all, had evolved into a spot attractive to both tourists and locals alike.

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Many had hoped it would be open by Christmas as another small, but encouraging sign of the recovery of the city centre. The notion of extending New Regent St's view down to the river with an easy link between the two would hugely benefit both.

The possibility comes about because the 11-storeyed shop and office building in Armagh St at the end of New Regent St, which it had been thought was repairable, is now going to be demolished. It is a deeply unattractive glass and concrete structure that will not be missed.

The building's owner, Tailorspace Investments, has had some informal discussions with Cera. According to Glenn Taylor, of Tailorspace, Cera is keen, although Cera is more circumspect and says the design team would consider "a variety of options".

Cost will be a factor in all this, of course, but provided something reasonable can be worked out, the idea looks like one that is too good to miss.

- Canterbury

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