Government buys one of last two sites for Christchurch's performing arts precinct

The empty Colombo St site next to the old Forsyth Barr building has been bought by the Government. It will be part of ...
GEORGE HEARD/STUFF

The empty Colombo St site next to the old Forsyth Barr building has been bought by the Government. It will be part of Christchurch's performing arts precinct.

The Government has purchased one of the last two remaining sites required for Christchurch's performing arts precinct after three years of negotiations.

The two sites were collectively worth about $4.8 million and have been owned by the same family since the 1940s. The purchase meant the Government was closer to completing its role in development of the major central city rebuild project.

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner said the sale was an important step "towards rejuvenating the cultural fabric of Christchurch".

There is just one precinct site left for the Government to purchase.
JOHN COWIE/STUFF

There is just one precinct site left for the Government to purchase.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel also said it was "an important step towards the development" of the precinct.

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Precinct plans included a new home for The Court Theatre and a second small performance venue on a site bound by Armagh, New Regent, Gloucester and Colombo streets. The Christchurch City Council was developing the project with $30 million in funding, while the Government was purchasing the land.

A council master plan for the performing arts precinct site includes a public square and parking building.
JOHN COWIE/STUFF

A council master plan for the performing arts precinct site includes a public square and parking building.

The two sites wrap around the base of the former Forsyth Barr building on the corner of Armagh and Colombo streets, which now houses the Crowne Plaza hotel. The empty Colombo St site has been sold, but sale of the Armagh St site, which contains three derelict retail spaces, was still being negotiated with the Government.

Court Theatre chief executive Philip Aldridge said the Government purchase was a "vote of confidence in the role of the performing arts in the city"

"I'm very pleased to see the Government complete this acquisition.

"The court looks forward to activating the city centre by contributing footfall of 150,000 per annum, seven days a week, all year round".

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Trustee of the family trust that owns both sites, John Greenwood, would not divulge the sale price, but said the sale took three years.

"We are relieved that the sale process is finally complete. It has been a drawn-out process," he said.

Greenwood said there were no firm plans for how the trust would invest the proceeds of the sale.

Christchurch theatre producer Michael Bell has proposed an $18m venue for the performing arts precinct called Andromeda. The proposal would involve a 400-seat theatre being built on precinct land using part of the council's $30m budget.

Bell said clearing the last derelict buildings on the site would "create the proper blank canvas" to build a precinct that was "beautiful and exciting, functioning well for the city, the city's visitors and the precinct's tenants".

He said his plan for a new theatre was fully costed and had been "sitting at the council for some time now".

"With the site now almost ready too, getting to work on building Andromeda should be an easy decision for the council."

The Court Theatre moved to Addington after its original Arts Centre home was badly damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes. The Court Theatre had not yet signed up for the precinct, but representatives have said they would be keen to return to the city centre if there was a building that was financially viable to build and operate.

 - Stuff

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