There are two interesting stories in the Press this morning that show the complete shambles that the rebuild of Christchurch has become. The first is about the escalating costs of construction. Worryingly, it suggests that due to rising costs, developers are eschewing fancy designs and pumping for plain old tip slab instead. Central city developers are having to compete with buildings in Addington, Victoria St and out at the airport, where the land is cheaper, and foundations are cheaper to put in. For the developers in the central city, this means that to build a premium office space, they are having to pay more than anywhere else in the country.
Think about that for a moment. Yes, we need to ensure that the buildings here are safe for future seismic events. But the buildings going up in Addington and Victoria St aren’t the most expensive in the country; this is a clear by-product of the CCDU blueprint, which deliberately restricted land supply for a select few developers. So while the plan was to artificially maintain the property prices for the lucky few, if they can’t afford to build on this land, it will soon lose it’s value again. Who is going to want to move their law firm into the most expensive office building in the country, when it is in the centre of a grey, broken wasteland, pockmarked by the occasional tilt-slab barn? The government should never have tried to prop up the property prices of their favourite developers; they should have let their beloved market determine what land was worth in the centre of a devastated city. That said, very little is happening in the middle of town, it wouldn’t be too late to just scrap the plan and start again.
Worryingly, the cost of building is expected to go up when they actually get around to starting it.
David Wallace, who represents developer Devonia Holdings, expected costs would “ramp up further” once the city’s anchor projects began.
Ah yes, those “anchor projects”, like the stadium. The damned stadium. But wait, the stadium could *make* money, according to a new plan. Geoff Saunders, a lawyer who seems to have the ear of Brownlee, has pitched the idea of building office blocks into the stadium. Ok. He reckons they would make $11 million a year. Ok. This raises more questions than answers for me. First, who is building these office blocks? This relates to the question who is building this stadium, and who is funding it? This is a question that people have been asking ever since the blueprint came out. It seems that the government is going to force the council to build it, and force the ratepayer to pay for it. If that’s the case, and this is the design, then will the ratepayer then be expected to build office blocks too?
You would have to assume that they were going to be built by the council, as otherwise, the purported $11 million would not be returned to the people. If they were built by another operator, and their value was contingent on their proximity to a publicly-funded asset, then why would we let them take the money?
But probably the biggest question I have on this is contingent on it’s success: if you can generate $11 million a year from 4 office blocks on this site, then how much could you generate if you just built offices, not a stadium? The jury is still out on whether Lancester Park can be salvaged, and no-one has produced a costed economic plan for the stadium. Looking at the picture that accompanies the story, I reckon you could fit 15 of these office blocks on the site; using the same maths as Saunders, this would pull in around $40 million a year. Also, you wouldn’t have to needlessly destroy heritage buildings like the NG Gallery one. You could even include some social housing in there, and bring some people back into the central city.
I realise that this is never going to happen; however, I think it’s important to bring the keep highlighting the idiocy that is the CCDU blueprint and all it’s unintended, yet highly predictable, consequences.