Rabbits and tumbleweed inhabit our destroyed city core, where “the possibility of building offices in the centre of the city now seems quite remote.” An effective remedy might be to ask: how much does Christchurch really need a ‘Central Business District’ (CBD)?
If many headquarters aren’t coming back and the same demand for office space that we had won’t return, a stronger dynamic for regional recovery would be concentrated, affordable housing. True, innovative, contemporary and appealing urban density: the new central city village ‘Otautahi’ (to be named through public consultation).
The Cera-set height limits of 5-6 floors would really suit apartments though most would be half that scale. We could fix one of New Zealand’s biggest problems by starting an alternate route into new housing than Auckland, with strong supply to head off price inflation nationally. Drawing in rebuild workers at the time they are needed. And inner-city accommodation would gain value over time, inside recovery that is less guaranteed without it.
So let us address substantial need for housing first and foremost – lead the way as a watching world wants Christchurch to. With hotel density increased also, and revitalised cultural attractions including the urban innovation, the ‘CBD’ would prosper quickly again through injected custom.
Note: an expensive, overgrown and dominating convention centre is not necessary to this picture. Cathedral Square – within pleasant walking, bus and cycle distance – is for local people too: the heart of a once and recoverable happy city?
The investment development waves that set up Christchurch the way it was (Anglican settlement, gold rush, bonanza wheat, heavy industry, long stable market for animal products) are gone forever. Except for long-stayers Ngai Tahu combined with preceding and more recent iwi.
There needs to be a new, contemporary investment wave for the city to really prosper again. The $40B government rebuild contribution won’t suffice. Major corporates don’t need the same base here that they maintained in the past, so what will next define central Christchurch?
All the ‘urban density’ focus talk (of the current District Plan Review) should be given an exemplar, it seems. If the many office blocks aren’t coming back, to feed central city service industries, then repopulate with many more apartments and hotels. Built to top earthquake spec reassuringly, of course, around revitalised cultural attractions to recover strong tourism. Simple?
“People have reported being happiest in cities where they expressed the highest levels of trust for their neighbours.. We may be able to nurture more supportive relationships simply by limiting the number of people in any particular residential cluster. That may mean limiting the number of apartment units sharing a particular elevator bank, or building more rowhouses, townhouses and courtyard apartments rather than towers.” – Charles Montgomery, Happy City: http://thehappycity.com/building-happiness/
 http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/67780735/developer-abandons-christchurch-for-auckland April 2015 & http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/67782456/why-didnt-you-shoot-them-you-bunny 16 April 2015 + http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/67741917/christchurch-in-2050-will-it-be-vibrant-or-depressed