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Friday, April 15, 2011

Only three residents remain in Sydenham retail strip

Only three residents remain in Sydenham retail strip

GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 16/04/2011
 
Welcome to Sydenham, population, um, three.

Permanent residents Doc Ross, his wife, Liz Taylor, and a third citizen – a man called Dave who lives in a caravan – are the sole residents of the centre of the historic community almost destroyed after three large earthquakes.

The Sydenham retail strip had been home to more than 40 people who lived on the first level above many of the brick buildings that lined Colombo St.

Today, just three people remain, but they hope more will return in time.

Ross, an artist, and Taylor, whose job is up in the air after the February 22 earthquake, have lived in their building for 13 years.

It is their home and one of the few residential buildings left standing.

The former Queenstown couple had made the former shop their home. They like the close proximity to the central city while visits to supermarkets involve short walks. It was an affordable place to buy and showed itself to be "an interesting neighbourhood".

Upstairs at 464 Colombo St is a large living area and bedroom, while they dine on the ground floor looking out across the normally busy thoroughfare.

"It's a bit like Deadwood for now though," Ross said yesterday.

"For now, at least, we live in Sydenham, population three."

The property is classed as residential and has survived three strong earthquakes since September 4 with the damage "exaggerated" after each of those jolts. The building has been green-stickered, although there are a few cracks.

The couple were forced to leave for a month immediately after February'squake, but did not hesitate to return.

"This is home." But the damage they found was nothing like that of their neighbours – rows of buildings either destroyed or demolished in recent weeks.

"Life here is not what it once was. It is extremely quiet here at the moment."

A regeneration plan for Sydenham, that involved a mix of residential and retail developments, was created after September's quake and was poised to be unveiled in early March.

While that project was on hold, Ross hoped it would proceed in time.

"That's the kind of thing we want to see in Sydenham – a good mix of shops and places people can live."

For now, life as a permanent resident of Sydenham is tranquil.

"No buses, few cars. It won't be the same again. It has been a bit depressing watching the buildings go. Sydenham has changed forever."

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