Transformation, opportunity in plan

BOB PARKER
Last updated 12:24 16/12/2011
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NEW VISION: The Christchurch City Council yesterday adopted the final draft Central City Plan for ministerial review.

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The Christchurch City Council yesterday adopted the final draft Central City Plan for ministerial review. Mayor BOB PARKER talks about what's in the plan to support and drive investment in the central city.



Landowners and developers in Christchurch's Central City Plan will find the final draft offers them increased opportunities for business and commercial development within the four avenues.

The plan is a framework outlining more than 70 projects and interventions designed to provide private investors and developers with the confidence to invest in the future of central Christchurch.

This private development will be supported by significant public sector investment. The city council has already made a commitment to help revitalise the central city and drive private investment by building a new convention centre, central library and metro sports facility; developing and celebrating the Avon River/Otakaro as the city's riverfront park, greening Cathedral Square, creating a transport system based on accessibility and choice and promoting new public artworks and spaces to make the central city an attractive destination.

The council has adopted a clear vision for the central city based on defined precincts and development nodes. In finalising the Plan, the council has looked to address the many issues raised by the community and key stakeholders following the release of the draft Plan, in particular relating to building heights, parking and design rules.

In the final draft plan adopted for ministerial review, the top issues addressed were: Existing use rights The council has replaced the proposal to extend existing use rights within the Central City Plan by introducing a limited life rule that will allow buildings to be replaced up to their current height and/or overall floor area. This will give property owners up to four years to redevelop sites with a new building of the same height and proportion to that which was either damaged or destroyed in the earthquakes.

This provides more certainty for property owners than the original proposal to extend existing use rights. Building heights Under the Central City Plan, the council will introduce new building heights in the Central City. Within the Compact Core - bounded to the north and west by the Avon River/Otakaro, Lichfield St in the south and Manchester St to the east - the height limit will be 31 metres, with a 45-degree recession plane from 21 metres.

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In the Fringe Zone - surrounding the core and extending south to Moorhouse Ave, north up Victoria St to Bealey Ave and east to Madras St - the height limit will be 21 metres.

In the Mixed Use Zone - predominantly in the southern and eastern corners of the central city - the height limit will be 17 metres.

Minimum building heights in the core will be two storeys, while in the Fringe and Mixed Use Zones the minimum has been removed.

These height provisions provide flexibility and allow for financially feasible developments, while recognising the likely tenant response to high-rise buildings and the community preference for a relatively low-rise city. Parking Minimum and maximum car parking requirements in the city centre for building developments in commercial areas have been removed, giving property owners the freedom to determine what parking requirements are necessary for the success of their development and the revitalisation of the CBD.

The council has also made a commitment to either repair or rebuild its supply of public car parking buildings within the city centre on the edge of the Compact Core, the facilities to be reopened to support retail and office development throughout the area. New hotel area While not detailed in the Central City Plan, the council has also made a commitment, as part of its Plan deliberations, to establish provisions that favour taller hotel buildings located in proximity to the new Convention Centre. This recognises that hotels need to be higher to have the number of rooms that ensure economic viability. This area is currently "floating" until a location for the new Convention Centre is selected. Comprehensive development The new comprehensive development provision provides greater flexibility for property owners to redevelop larger-scale or amalgamated sites in the city centre. These projects will not be subject to the same rules as smaller developments, but rather be assessed on their merit to provide a high-quality urban development outcome and be a catalyst for future investment.

Developers will also have the flexibility to use the previous height or floor area entitlement across an entire comprehensive development area. Incentives A range of business incentives for both temporary activities and permanent reinvestment have been adopted in the Central City Plan by the council. These include development contributions rebates for all commercial developments within the four avenues for the next five years and a per- employee grant for businesses which return their operations to the Compact CBD and health precinct. This incentive is available to businesses for the first 20,000 retail, office and medical employees relocated back in the central city.

A streamlined consenting process will also be introduced to ensure development proceeds as quickly as possible. Build to the street within the Compact Core Property owners will need to build to the street along 100 per cent of the street frontage. However, in the Fringe Zone, this rule has been reduced to only 65 per cent of the street frontage. Plot ratios removed To reduce the impact of lower building heights, the Central City Plan has significantly increased the floor area of each site "as of right" in the Compact Core and Fringe Zones by removing plot ratios. This will allow for greater flexibility with design and help improve investor returns.

The final draft Plan will be presented to Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee next Wednesday for consideration. The minister's decision is expected early in the new year.

In the interim, the council will begin investigating and scoping the projects it has made a commitment to implement, and start introducing a range of transitional projects to attract residents, business and investment back to the central city.

Much of this work will focus on creating reasons for people to come back to the CBD to discover what is happening within the four avenues.

- The Press

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