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Friday, May 13, 2011

Owners, tenants still feel CBD pull

Owners, tenants still feel CBD pull

Last updated 05:00 14/05/2011
Most Christchurch landlords and tenants remain committed to the central city, a survey says.

The confidence-boosting survey by the Christchurch branch of Colliers International showed most landlords intended to repair or rebuild their earthquake-hit buildings.

Of those who wanted to rebuild, 71 per cent were looking at buildings of no more than four storeys.

The survey, which included about 100 inner-city tenants, showed about 70 tenants had found new premises after the February quake.

Only 26 per cent thought their new offices were permanent, and 77 per cent would consider moving back to the central city. Their most important considerations were (in order) location, rent and safety.

Colliers managing director Hamish Doig said the tenants and landlords surveyed represented about 30 per cent of office space in the central city.

"The most compelling result for me was the number of landlords wanting to reinstate or rebuild," he said. "We have a unique breed of landlord in Christchurch and they are quite passionate about what they do."

He was stunned by tenant sentiment that showed confidence had not been lost.

"You would think people would be excited by change and things would be a bit fresh, but already the sentiment is saying, "We can't wait to get back'."

He was surprised safety was not the top consideration as it seemed to be the first thing people mentioned.

Although landlords would lose rental potential with lower-level buildings, increased competition for less available space might allow them to claw back the losses in higher rents, he said.

"One of our clients is using the insurance money for one building to build three buildings. We will see more of that attitude occurring."

His firm, which was in the Brannigans building in Oxford Tce and is now in Burnside, would move back to the inner city.

"You walked to meetings and you bumped into people. That whole engagement and exchange was very important to us," he said.

"You don't walk to places in the suburbs. You drive and you don't bump into people."

Andy Macfarlane, of Ashburton, who owns the Asko site in Victoria St, said a four-level building for the site was nearly ready for tender. The building was expected to be ready next year, and interest had been high.

"I think that's a reflection of the location and the specifications of the building," he said.

"Interest was high before the earthquake and has just heightened because people want to be early off the block. Buildings will sell themselves."

Safety sensitivity would diminish and people would start to realise tall buildings could be engineered strongly, he said.

Christchurch City Council strategy and planning group manager Mike Theelen said the survey results were encouraging.

"It starts to say there are things people value about the central city and it's that you have that energy and concentration," he said.

"People can go out and meet people. You have the bars, restaurants and shops and that fuller part of life these business parks can't create."

Christchurch had traded on its heritage but the city would now have to be different from "cute and old".

"We need to challenge the private market and say give us more than something bland and boring. Buildings will have to entice people," he said.

- The Press

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