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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Christchurch Arts Centre evicts tenants, lays off staff

Christchurch Arts Centre evicts tenants, lays off staff

Last updated 05:00 24/03/2011
The Christchurch Arts Centre has been forced to evict its tenants and lay off more than half its staff.

The tenants, including the Dux de Lux, the Court Theatre and Untouched World, have been told they may not be able to return for up to four years.

Eight fulltime and 16 part-time Arts Centre staff will be made redundant, leaving only nine fulltime staff members and one part-time.

Every historic building in the badly damaged complex was red-stickered after last month's earthquake.

Arts Centre director Ken Franklin said the tenants had to go because the site was unsafe and it was uncertain when the buildings would be restored and ready for occupation. "We can't afford to have members of the public on this site when it is not safe. The damage is extensive to these buildings," he said.

"When we reopen, we need to have absolute public confidence in the buildings. We have to bring confidence back by strengthening these buildings.

"We are uncertain about the time frame for this and where the money can be directed, so we don't know the form of tenancy we will be able to offer. The tenants who have been associated with this site need to consider their own future in alternative spaces."

Untouched World chief executive Peri Drysdale said the store would not relocate in the central city for at least a year and planned to retreat to the Burnside flagship store.

"It is going to take a long time to rebuild the city centre and get people back in there," she said.

"At the moment, it wouldn't make sense to open another downtown store. Who is going to go to the city centre shops? It will be at least a year before the city centre is viable for retailers."

Dux de Lux owner Richard Sinke said he had not been told his tenancy would be terminated.

"As a tenant of 33 years, I thought I might be informed before the media. I haven't heard anything," he said.

Rodney Cook said he had been told it could be up to four years before he could reopen his Academy and Cloisters cinemas on the site.

He is looking for a site near the Arts Centre to rebuild his Metro Gold cinema, which once stood in Worcester St.
"I'm devastated.

"The thought of losing the Academy and the Cloisters is a horror story for me," he said.

"We are looking for another prime location near the Arts Centre.

"My dream is to return to the Arts Centre and reopen."

Southern Ballet is looking for new premises in northwest Christchurch or south of the city centre.

Southern Ballet Trust chairman Clifford Cox said it was sad to leave the site.

"We have been there for 37 years and it doesn't seem right that they can terminate us just like that," he said.

Franklin said redundancies were made to ensure available funds could be spent on restoring Arts Centre buildings.

"We have to make sure we keep our costs as low as possible so any insurance funds are covering the restoration work," he said.

Some Arts Centre buildings may be not be saved, despite comprehensive insurance cover, he said.

- The Press

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