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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Temporary Christchurch hub mooted

Temporary Christchurch hub mooted

Last updated 05:00 24/03/2011
Hundreds of quake-hit bars, restaurants and retailers could reopen in a temporary "entertainment" hub in central Christchurch under a plan being considered by the Government.

It has asked commercial developers for ideas to build an interim hub to keep businesses afloat while demolition and repair work continues behind the cordons.

Thousands of eateries, bars and retailers are within the central-city red zone, with their customers now swamping suburban counterparts.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee had confirmed an entertainment hub was being considered, with several sites within the four avenues being investigated. It would be aimed at bars, cafe, restaurants and specialist retailers rather than offices or supermarkets, he said.

"We're looking at whether there is a place where we could put a temporary base for some entertainment; for bars and cafes," he said.

Michael Doig, of construction firm Ganellen, said his company had already been approached. "They are actually coming to the construction industry and asking for our input as to how fast we can get structures up there and the cost," he said.

A temporary central business district could be created out of tents on vacant sites, inside warehouses or out of shipping containers, he said.

"They are looking at tent-like marquee structures similar to an expo; alternatively, lightweight industrial buildings ... or there is a 12 by 12-metre modular concept that has come out of Auckland."

Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale said he was looking at four sites within the four avenues to house businesses and understood the Government was considering a similar solution.

Lonsdale said, ideally, the makeshift hub would be operating within three months and house up to 300 retailers, bars, cafes and restaurants.

Creating a central hub would also support the central city during the lengthy wait for the cordons to be lifted.

"I think we need to look at it from a social perspective, rather than just business," he said.

As the cordon was eased, it was hoped another shopping hub could be built around Ballantynes, he said.
Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC) chief executive Bill Luff said there was merit in temporary retail hub proposals. "You have to get the punters to have the confidence to come back and use it."

However, a temporary hub has been rejected by some bar and restaurant owners.

Cafe Valentino owner Michael Turner said it was difficult to replicate a restaurant's success in temporary accommodation.

"Relocating a restaurant is not like relocating a dairy," he said.

Max Bremner, chief executive of Oxford Management Services, which owns and operates seven bars and restaurants in the central city, said he disagreed with the concept. He said businesses would have to forgo the certainty of business-interruption insurance on their quake-damaged properties to embark on a potentially expensive and untried endeavour in makeshift premises.

On Monday, the concept was presented to a meeting of central-city cafe, bar and restaurant owners by Recover Canterbury, a joint venture between the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce and the CDC, but the response was muted.

Business co-ordinator Bronwyn Bindon told the group it could be 15 to 18 months before the central city was functioning.

- The Press

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