The Press leads this morning with yet another high-profile inner city redevelopment being scrapped. This time, it’s the glass monstrosity that was proposed for the old Triangle Centre site.

Long-time Triangle Centre landlord Michael Ogilvie-Lee has dropped his concept for a $100 million sculptural glass-wrapped office and shopping centre between Colombo, High and Cashel streets. The land has been bought by CHC Properties, jointly owned by fashion retailer, investor and rich-lister Tim Glasson, and fellow Hallenstein Glasson shareholder and chairman Warren Bell.

Aesthetic concerns aside, this should set alarm bells ringing in the CERA head office, if not the Beehive. Just a couple of weeks short of the 3 year anniversary of the February quake, and the rebuild of the city is increasingly becoming a vanity project for the city’s mega-rich.

With several projects shelved in the 18 months since the Government’s blueprint for the city’s retail core was unveiled, local rich-listers look like being best-placed to get plans off the ground. Glasson was estimated by the National Business Review’s 2103 Rich List to be worth $85m. Antony Gough, whose family’s wealth was estimated at $300m, is the only landowner with construction under way around City Mall. Philip Carter, listed as Christchurch’s richest man with $120m, has plans to build a precinct on land between Colombo, Cashel, High and Lichfield streets. Also hoping to start building soon is Nick Hunt, who is holding insurance payouts for lost buildings but has not yet confirmed a tenant for his Cashel Square precinct.

Look, I don’t have anything against the super-rich (ok, I do, but now’s not the time for that…) But should we be leaving the rebuild of the country’s second city – and the primary driver of the country’s economic recovery – to the whims of people for whom money means nothing? The National Party pride themselves on their business acumen and economic management, and yet have not been able to create an environment that attracts investment. There are tens of billions of dollars from insurance payments; dozens of businesses, with thousands of workers, that want a new home in the CBD – so why are developers giving Christchurch the cold shoulder? And why is no-one talking about the economic implications of the chronic mismanagement of the rebuild? Sure, growth in Canterbury might be the main driver of the country’s projected growth this year, but imagine what that growth would look like if the rebuild was being managed even half competently?

 

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