Archives for posts with tag: CBD

One the one hand, I think this is a good initiative. The council land from the old Henderson deal being using for housing. They look good and Welles St would be a great place to live at the moment.

On the other hand, the old “affordable” chestnut comes up again. $450,000 is affordable? Affordable for whom? There are still actual houses with actual backyards for sale in Christchurch under $400,000. Some aren’t much more than $300,000. So I can’t see how an apartment, with no land attached, on the outskirts of a CBD with little to no amenity value, can justify a $450k price tag. Or more than that, as 80% of the units will be. It might be affordable relative to Auckland, but this isn’t Auckland.

I’m genuinely interested in what the comparative cost of something similar in Wellington or Dunedin might be, and whether the economics of this stack up.

Property developers seem to be the most important people in the eyes of the government. The blueprint put them front and centre, limiting land supply to ensure that those within the frame didn’t lose value on their portfolios. The blueprint also strongly favours big developments, which has resulted in big name, big money developers taking on whole city blocks at a time. Some of these developers are relentlessly positive, such as Shaun Stockman:

His advice to people considering living in the central city is simple – “do it”.

“Enjoy the buzz of living centrally. It’s a perfect place to be for people who want an easy care lifestyle and there is something for everyone. The new city is a playground – just get stuck in!”

Something for everyone! The new city is a playground! Just get stuck in! The other developer who can usually be called upon for boosterism has a slightly different message:

High-profile property developer Antony Gough hopes offering pre-earthquake rents will lure tenants to his stalled central Christchurch precinct.

Gough, whose prime hospitality space, The Strip, was demolished after the quakes, said he would charge about $700 a square metre for hospitality space at The Terrace – “a third of what shopping malls are charging”. Hospitality NZ said Gough’s offer was generous but some developers thought it would still be too expensive for tenants.

A “few” tenants had already signed up but he would not say how many.

Demand has clearly not matched the optimistic expectations of those developing in the Cashel Mall area – this isn’t the first time that Gough’s development has stalled. While you have to admire him for pushing on regardless, the underlying economics of the situation should have alarm bells ringing at CERA HQ. As should this story from the Press:

Cristo Ltd has abandoned plans to develop the site of BNZ House in Cathedral Square, which it says is the subject of a dispute with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), and is looking for a buyer.

The building has become an eyesore, sitting half-demolished on the southern edge of the square for more than two years while developers and businesses head west to the banks of the Avon River.

Cristo director Stephen Bell said tenants were not interested in the site, stalling development plans for a multi-storey office building. “The high-end tenants you need to make a building like that, a fairly expensive building, pay, seem to have settled elsewhere and are not really interested in coming right back into the CBD. The possibility of building offices in the centre of the city now seems quite remote.”

Most of the development happening in the CBD is being led by families with a strong connection to Christchurch. The lack of outside investment in the city has always been a problem – but now that these developer families are pulling their money out, where does that leave the wasteland of a CBD? This situation – a CBD rebuild led by a handful of prominent developers – is exactly what the government wanted when they released the blueprint. People have been arguing since 2012 that this is what would happen if they went down this track. They’ve rejected such claims. This is their mess.

Rentals for more than $400s a square metre, which Bell said were needed to make a high-rise development on the BNZ site viable, were unsustainable, [Richard] Peebles said, especially when tenants wanted to be on the west bank of the Avon River and could do so for much less.

Knight Frank director of valuation Will Blake said existing developments had largely catered for office space demand, meaning the old CBD – Cathedral Square and surrounds – “could be in for quite a long period of not much activity”.

“It certainly does look like the central city has shifted to the west and become a bit more elongated rather than just clustered around the square.”

That the city has “shifted to the west” and that people want to be on the west bank of the Avon is telling – this means the developments on Cambridge Terrace and Victoria St. These developments have flourished precisely because they are outside of the area controlled by the blueprint. There is a diminishing business case, to put it in developer-speak, for returning to the CBD. I doubt this is what CERA wanted when they released the blueprint.

Last week, I looked up the Live Central Christchurch website, after a giant billboard for it went up opposite the Commons. It is a remarkable piece of propaganda from the CCDU, and the homogeneity of it has caused a few, much deserved, heckles.

A reader who contacted The Press called it “outrageous”.

“Look at how white and middle-class they seem to think the people who will be living in the future Christchurch are. It’s really quite offensive how narrow this demographic is,” he said.

This was followed by some sensible comments from Cr Johanson, and some idiot utterances from Cr Gough:

Cr Jamie Gough, who lived in the central city until recently, took the reader’s point but said the promotion deserved credit for avoiding “social engineering”. It did not offend him.

“This is just real-life people enjoying living in the central city. Sometimes, real isn’t always the most politically correct,” Gough said.

Gough said some even stupider things on his Facebook, which Moata has rightly skewered, and you should all read along. What Gough fails to understand, whilst he bandies about comically-meaningless terms like “PC gone mad” and “social engineering”, is that Live Central’s vision, and his support for it is social engineering. This is someone with a history of bigotry, who famously slagged off a large proportion of the city’s population as bogans just because they went to the beach at the same time as him. Asking him for a nuanced take on socio-political issues is like milking a cow and expecting to get eggs. The people in the picture might be real people who really live in the CBD, and he may not see a problem with that.

He should.

That the people selected for the campaign are uniformly white, middle-class and largely in the same age bracket is the problem. We know that New Zealand has a very diverse – and diversifying – population. We know that there are significant numbers of people with disabilities. We know that we have an ageing population. So to have a subset of people – even if they do really live in the CBD – which doesn’t acknowledge any of these things is ‘social engineering’ in itself.

I disagree with Moata on some things though; I don’t think this is a good campaign. Aside from presenting a white-washed view of living in the CBD, it white-washes the reality of central city living. I’ve lived in the CBD since December 2013, and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty weird. I’m not the only one who thinks that. While you would expect a promotional website to be bullish, some of the claims are closer to bullshit. The purpose of the site is to attract people to live in the CBD; to encourage that, they have listed a bunch of residential developments. None of these projects seem to be at the “affordable” end of the scale, which makes you wonder whether there are enough upper middle-class people who wanted to live in the CBD for them to be able to reach their 20,000 person target.

As a central city resident, I’d love to see more people live here. It would improve my quality of life markedly; more people would mean more shops and cafes. It’d mean that we’d be more likely to be listened to about issues that directly effect us. But this half-hearted, homogenous campaign looks to be a reflection of the CCDU’s commitment to making this happen; a poorly thought-out attempt at making something happen through marketing. If CERA genuinely wanted more people to live in the central city, they could address the main factor preventing this happening – the cost of land. Maybe then we can see a campaign in another 5 or 10 years that more accurately reflects the diversity that makes up 21st century New Zealand.

At the debate on Tuesday night, the Prime Minister boasted that the rebuild was going well, that the CBD was booming and almost full. On the 4th anniversary of the September 4th quake, I thought I’d take some pics of the CBD I know.

This is where the Christchurch Temperance Society was, the bar I was at about an hour before the quake. It never reopened.

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This is where one of my flats was.

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And another.

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And another.

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Think Christchurch his booming? Talk to the hand mate

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On Thursday, there was a very passionate, vocal protest to save the Majestic Theatre. Probably thanks to the presence of the Wizard, and two of his acolytes, it got good media attention – CTV news covers it here, and the Press has a video at the top of it’s piece as well. I gave a short speech in front of the Majestic, in which I covered off the main tenets of Those Left Standing: Repair, Reuse and Rethink.

Repair. These buildings, still standing, clearly aren’t an immediate risk of falling down and causing harm to people. They can be repaired, if there is the will and the money to do so. Reuse. The rebuild thus far has been a huge waste – both of materials, and buildings. We need to ask ourselves where that mass of concrete, glass and steel will end up if we pull it down. We can reuse – by repairing buildings and putting them back into circulation, we can reclaim the built environment whilst protecting the natural one.

Rethink. The CCDU want to pull down the Majestic Theatre to widen a road by 9m. It’s 2014, and we’re knocking down buildings to accommodate more cars. This is madness, and shows that parts of the Blueprint plan need to be completely re-thought. Instead of reassessing how the plan has worked in the almost 2 years since it was released, Brownlee and Isaacs are doubling down on the Blueprint, betting that it’s failures can be glossed over by putting the house on red. It’s a high-risk play, with a potentially disastrous legacy if it all goes wrong. This is planning by bluster and stubbornness, and now is the time to admit that we need a rethink, before everything is bulldozed by an outdated plan.

I agree with a lot of this article about the good and bad of laneways, and recommend that you give it a read. One thing that the author doesn’t really touch on – and that I think is key with respect to the way that lane ways are proposed for the city – is the artificiality of them. Antony Gough has been to Melbourne, and wants to put in little lanes like the ones he saw there. To do this, he is going to put them through his development, and hope that shops populate them. Sure, better than nothing – but not the way that cities evolve lanes. Even in pre-quake Christchurch, you had a stark example of this. Poplar St was a success as shops and bars moved into a group of buildings that had been built up for all manner of purposes over a century; SOL Square was drawn up on a plan, and while the bars did well, it was at the expense of the shops, who had all gone under within a year or so of opening. There was very little life down those lanes during the day.

If Christchurch wants lanes – and we want them to be successful – then the best way forward would be for CERA to let developers work on smaller pockets of land, rather than concentrating development into giant blocks of land, then expecting Potemkin Laneways to be built through them.

 

A Stuff Nation assignment asks people to imagine their heart of the city. This particular vision tickled my fancy:

Hazel Oldham said she would like Christchurch to be a clean city without ”shabby shops”. ”I’d like to see some tough rules which require shops to sweep streets and keep exteriors painted and spotlessly clean,” Oldham said. ”There should be no junk drifting along streets and people should be paid to keep streets clean.”

Now, I’m not advocating for an intentionally dirty city, but this person seems to have no idea what makes a city tick. If you want spotless exteriors you could go and visit a mall – we have plenty of them. The only thing that makes central Christchurch interesting right now is the various states of decay that it’s in – new buildings popping up next to sites covered in rubble and wild flowers. The rebuild is going to take some time, so if you want a sterile city, I’d suggest you look somewhere else.

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It should have read “parking squeeze in CBD annoys South Island’s richest man, no-one else”

Front page of the Press this morning is a story about the government wanting to put more people in the CBD of Christchurch:

The Government wants 20,000 residents living in Christchurch’s inner city – and is formulating a plan to achieve it.

Thing is, before the quakes the council had a goal of 30,000 people living in the CBD – though the reality was that there were around 7000-8000 (though no one quite knows how many). The usual measure for the “central city” is the Four Aves – so most of these people live / lived in two strips; between Salisbury St and Bealey Ave in the North, and Barbadoes and Fitzgerald to the East.

While I applaud this happening, I think it’s pretty silly that the Government’s target of 20,000 is actually less ‘aspirational’ than the council’s pre-quake target. I personally think that we should be aiming to have far more people living in the CBD – 100,000? 250,000? The redesign of the Christchurch CBD is our chance to re-shape the way New Zealanders live in the 21st century; we cannot continue to expand endlessly across the plains, lest we find ourselves in a situation like Auckland has. 100,000 people living within the four aves would not be a particularly remarkable density on an international level – but New Zealand is so tied to an unsustainable “1/4 acre dream” that I doubt that this will ever be considered. At least not now. Maybe when it’s too late.

This is a comprehensive, scathing post from Puddleglum that anyone who gives half a fuck about Christchurch should read. It is the third part of a series of long posts on Christchurch, which looks at the frame. As I’ve argued, it documents how the Frame and the associated land deals in the CBD are nothing more than a concentration of wealth into the hands of the developers who already hold most of the cards. There are many eminently quotable quotes:

Even the “most popular projects” only barely have support from half the residents, which itself is quite remarkable.

As has been made abundantly clear, however, the ‘anchor projects’ – especially the Frame and the Stadium – were not proposed primarily for their supposed amenity benefits. Their main raison d’être has always been as land soaks: the need to take central city land out of circulation.

And some conclusions that I whole-heatedly endorse:

In simple economic terms, the government has engineered greater wealth concentration in Christchurch. Fewer hands now control more of the economic levers in the city and region. And – as a horse goes with a carriage and love supposedly goes with marriage – along with greater economic power goes greater political control over Christchurch’s destiny.

As I mentioned, it’s a very long post, but that’s because it is comprehensively researched. I really can’t recommend it enough.

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