Momentum on 'dirty 30': Lower High St heritage block reopening in months
Lower High St property owners say they are making big progress on their damaged heritage buildings, despite featuring on the city council's "dirty 30" list.
Several rebuild and renovation projects are under way and owners hope the road – the only one in the central city still closed since the earthquakes – can reopen within months.
Safety fencing blocks traffic to the High St block, between St Asaph and Tuam streets.
The full row of 15 century-old Duncan's buildings was included in the Christchurch City Council's "dirty 30" list of commercial properties holding up the rebuild. It released the list last month.
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"There's definitely some growing momentum, we're finally getting a bit of traction," said Kris Inglis, a director Duncans Lane Ltd, which is rescuing eight of the Duncan's buildings which make up the bulk of the block.
Inglis said they had just received resource consent for their project and would apply for building consent within weeks.
They would then prop up the damaged facades, allowing at least one lane reopen, he said.
The project involves repairing the historic facades of the buildings which they bought from the Crown last year, and building new structures behind opening onto a rear laneway.
Next door, TMR restaurant & bar in Moorhouse Ave (formerly the Monday Room), will reopen in the Duncan's buildings at 159 and 161 High St. Landlord David Collins has finished a major renovation of the buildings, which has included bringing in stonemasons to replace ornate heritage features.
The badly damaged Duncans buildings at 163 and 165 High St are being demolished now. Owner Laurie Rose has rebuild plans.
At 137 High St, the Arts family already has the first of the Duncan's buildings open with their Arts the Printers business trading inside.
At the end of the block, by the old McKenzie and Willis facade, the Stockman family said their Billens buildings rebuild was ahead of schedule.
Director Shaun Stockman said they signed tenants including Kennett Jewellers, Black and White Coffee Cartel, Mugen Sushi, a hair salon and 25 office tenants. They had "strong interest from two hospitality operators" for premises on one of their laneways, he said.
The project will replace the three-storey Billens building, formerly the England Bros building, which was torched in 2012 after suffering earthquake damage.
Inglis said leasing for their project was initially "tougher than we expected", but things had turned a corner.
The completion of the McKenzie and Willis development and the Little High Eatery, which formed the first stages of their High St Lanes redevelopment, renewed interest, he said.
Inglis' partners in the project are developers Richard Peebles and Mike Percasky.
The developers have asked the city council for the tram tracks to be extended past the heritage streetscape before the street fully reopens.
Advocacy group Historic Places Canterbury has described the block of heritage buildings on lower High St as "absolutely invaluable" to the city.
All the buildings on the strip will back onto public lanes and the Evolution Courtyard. These spaces will link the block to the city's south frame, through to the Avon River corridor through the east frame housing precinct.
The council has removed some large trees blocking the view of the buildings and will replace them with new landscaping.