There are two very fundamental reasons why the commercial rebuild of the Christchurch CBD has not occurred.
1 - the precincts idea and the amalgamation of smaller into larger
titles, and the expectation that one Ring to Rule each Block could
somehow thereby be plucked from the rubble. This is a deeply
uncommercial proposition, because any development, large or small, needs
60-80% commitment from prospective tenants before funders will look at
it. That has been the consistent stumbling-block for every single
development. Even our sentimentalist (Sir Bob Jones' characterisation)
who is building the Terrace complex has tripped over this chunk of
reality. And the time taken to demolish, amalgamate, issue RFP's and
consider the results, takes much Time. And time=money, a fact which
CCDU and CERA are blissfully unaware of: their salaries arrive with the
regularity of sunrise. So construction costs inflation rattles along
at 10-15% pa: so a replacement build of say $30m in late 2011, is going
to cost $42.5m today (assuming cost inflations of 10, 12, 15% over each
of those three years respectively).
2 - Retail in particular has to sell stuff Today, to be able to pay
staff next Week. So denying retailers access to their inventory, tools
of trade, and back office systems in the early days of the CBD lockdown,
was always a lose-lose action. Denied a living, there are only two
choices: relocate and start afresh, or fold entirely and go work for
someone else. Both have of course occurred: the business deaths from
the lockdown are still being counted, and the New CBD - the
Sydenham/Addington/Middleton/Riccarton/Hornby/Airport arc, plus the
block bounded roughly by Victoria St/Cambridge Tce/Avon River/Bealey Ave
- is roaring ahead and is extremely disinclined to decamp to some
Precinct with uncertain foot traffic, years of construction disruption,
and building values and hence rentals, 2-4 times their current
outgoings. So, and inevitably, the Justice (Government) Precinct is
the only one which seems to have tenants with deep enough pockets to
stand the costs. And those pockets are, of course, full of your and my
tax dollars, quel surprise.
This will all settle down in the decades to come, of course. But
the notion that the Precincts will survive in the big-block dream sense,
is surely fading away. It will be replaced by the Jane Jacobs (the Death and Life of great American Cities author) patchwork: many small
plots, many smaller developments, each rhyming with its neighbours, and
at human scale.
So, the Baron Haussmann notions are going to have to be deep-sixed, and sanity prevail.
But not before the current crop of ineptocrats have driven their steamroller right into the swamp.