Is city living a tempting lifestyle?

High-end flats on the way - but will people buy?

DAVID KILLICK
Last updated 10:38 04/06/2014
Miro Luxury Residences
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CITY LIFE: Miro Luxury Residences, planned for the corner of Peterborough and Colombo Sts in central Christchurch.

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OPINION: Would you want to live in the central city? In Christchurch, with its broken buildings, empty rubble-strewn sites, lack of parking, and rough slalom-course roads lined with orange cones? You must be joking - or so many people might suppose.

They may well be wrong. Here's why the future of central city Christchurch may be mixed-use residential.

With the city only a fraction of its way through a process of radical transformation that will continue for at least the next decade and probably the one after that, options, for now at least, remain open. Potential and opportunity still exist.

The Cera-CCDU Blueprint, drawn up in just 100 days in 2011, was initially hailed as bold and visionary. Now, three years later, many of those directly involved in the rebuild - including planners, developers, and architects - agree that the blueprint needs tweaking, if not a wholesale reworking. That should come as no surprise.

What has become apparent is the impossibility of forcing businesses back in to the centre. Many of them have relocated further afield and are happy there. As Auckland urban planning lecturer Dr Dushko Bugonovich pointed out this year, the horse has already bolted.

The reluctance of law firms to commit to the new justice precinct, uncertainty over the arts precinct, as well as questions over the viability of a new sports stadium and convention centre - all of them anchor projects - throw the blueprint into doubt.

That does not mean that the blueprint is bad and a failure. Those projects may still all happen, but probably not in a hurry, and certainly not without controversy. (This is Christchurch, after all.)

We need to be flexible.

The Town Hall is still likely to be restored, and the Theatre Royal is set to open this year. Some commercial development is still taking place. Shops, bars, cafes and restaurants are re-establishing themselves.

One big component of the blueprint, strongly supported by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, is for residential development in the central city. At present, that looks much more likely than intensive commercial growth.

A positive outcome will be more mixed-use development, creating vibrant neighbourhoods.

Developer Richmond Paynter believes residential has huge potential and is pushing ahead with plans for an upmarket multi-storey apartment building called Miro Luxury Residences, to be built on the corner of Colombo and Peterborough Sts.

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Designed by Architectus, the firm working on the central city library project, together with Danish architects, the building will be constructed using sustainable Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), and will feature environmentally friendly plant-covered green walls.

The layout of the apartments, each measuring an airy 250 to 300 square metres, by interior designers Susie and Teassa Paynter, certainly look luxurious and sumptuous - but who will afford high-end apartments in Christchurch?

Quite a few people, believes Richmond Paynter. Christchurch lost upwards of 400 apartments after the quakes, including The Establishment, The Peterborough, Terrace on the Park, Bridgewater, and Victoria apartments.

"The only way the city is going to be developed is residential," he insists.

It's a strong vote of confidence. If not apartments, then what?

An attractive mixed-use neighbourhood will make city living appealing. "A place situated in the centre of Christchurch City's transformative rebirth . . . A place that is on the pulse of the new city's thriving heartbeat," as the brochure glowingly puts it.

The city may look like a mess now, but landscaping will transform the area.

Richmond Paynter says with the new private hospital as neighbours, as well as the Avon River nearby, the whole precinct will burgeon.

A new office building designed by architect Thom Craig is to be built next door, so not all businesses are deserting the centre.

Paynter, who is also restoring another neighbouring building, will build a car-parking building, too.

The need for more parking in the centre seems compelling, yet it is also worth noting that overseas not every city building has acres of parking space; people use public transport or bike instead.

Meanwhile, more affordable apartments are planned for Latimer Square, next to the Breathe eco-village development.

Apartments are the norm in Europe and many other countries, but Kiwis remain cautious. That may change - as long as the apartments are well-designed and affordable.

One concern remains - while cafes, restaurants, and bars do add life, Christchurch does not need a return of out-of-control drunken youths creating mayhem in the inner city. Tougher laws and policing, plus a strong dose of self- control, are called for.

Lively music and entertainment are to be welcomed, though, and if you don't like them, don't live there.

Not everybody wants to live in a new subdivision on the fringe. They have their attractions, too, but it need not be a case of either-or. Christchurch needs choice; the more the better.

- The Press

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