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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Flattened, but racing to rebuild

Flattened, but racing to rebuild

Last updated 05:00 21/04/2011
Northern Colombo St shops were nearly wiped out by the February earthquake, but landlords are vowing it will be the first part of Christchurch to be rebuilt.

Only four buildings will be standing on the stretch between Salisbury and Kilmore streets once the demolition crews have finished. Many buildings have already been flattened.

Building owners say the blanket destruction will make the rebuild faster, with many having already lodged building consents with the Christchurch City Council.

Colin Johnson's century-old grocery store was reduced to rubble on February 22, but he is determined to rebuild before Cup and Show Week in November.

"I think we'll get back and we'll be the best part of town. People are going to feel safe here," he said.

Other building owners say Christmas is a more likely target, and Cafe Valentino owner Michael Turner said he expected the area to be fully rebuilt by July next year.

Turner, whose Colombo St restaurant was demolished without his consent after the quake, has approval for a new building, which will retain the original's heritage style.

"It's going to look 100 years old on the day we open," he said.

John Wilson, who owns two shops in the block, said he had filed a consent application, and hoped to start building in three months.

"I believe we can be open by Christmas."

The group had various plans for rebuilding, he said.

"The buildings are going to be quite different – that's what gives the area character."

Civil Defence originally scheduled the block to reopen on April 11, but they are waiting until the demolition of dangerous buildings.

Despite having insurance cover, owners expect to pay substantial amounts to rebuild to meet new earthquake-strengthening standards. "I am going to be $300,000 short, give or take," Turner said.

Liz Barry, who owns the Metro Cafe on the corner of Kilmore and Colombo streets, said that while the rebuild would be expensive, there was no other choice.

"I've been here for 24 years," she said. "We've just got to believe we can do it."

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