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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Walk to the shops by November

Walk to the shops by November

Last updated 05:00 08/04/2011
A "retail bridgehead" could be established in central Christchurch in time for Cup and Show Week.

The Re:Start 29.10.11 project, the brainchild of the Central City Property Owners and Business Group, was announced by Mayor Bob Parker and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee yesterday.

Parker said it aimed to bring business back to the area around the City Mall, from Oxford Tce to Colombo St, and establish a "retail bridgehead" on October 29.

"We have today the first really bright ray of sunshine for central-city businesses," Parker said.

Department store Ballantynes would play a lead role by reopening that day, a week before Cup and Show Week.

Existing buildings and relocatable structures will house retailers, restaurants and cafes.

Ballantynes managing director Mary Devine was confident customers would return to the city.

It was an opportunity for the City Mall to become more of a focus for specialty retailers.

"Now's our time to look at if we can nurture a really unique cluster of businesses," she said.

Much of the City Mall east of Colombo St was relatively undamaged and could reopen once buildings like the Hotel Grand Chancellor were demolished or stabilised, she said.

The 14 members of the Central City Property Owners and Business Group have buildings in the proposed Re:Start project area.

Chairman John Suckling said the area was not in the shadow of buildings that could collapse so could reopen sooner.

Suckling admitted it was uncertain how many businesses would want to take up the opportunity, or if they would survive until October.

"A lot have already decided to go to the suburbs, but this is the earliest opportunity we have got to reopen it," he said.

Max Bremner, the owner of seven city bars and a spokesman for Christchurch Hospitality Inc, said some hospitality businesses would be interested, but a return to the area could not be rushed.

"The whole thing has to be done properly. We have only got one chance at this," he said.

Jason Dunn, co-owner of Kooky NZ Designer Fashion, on Cashel St, said he would "prefer a more permanent solution". By October, many businesses would either have moved to the suburbs or gone under, he said.

Parker said it would take up to nine months before there was any significant rebuilding in the rest of the city.

Re:Start 29.10.11 would have no bearing on the long-term plans for the central business district, he said.

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