A green spine extending from the city to sea is poised to set Christchurch apart as a place that is prepared to explore new ways of living with nature – from adaptive housing to sustainable urban agriculture.
Walkways and biking tracks, wetland developments and a variety of other public and private land uses are included in a shortlist of potential options for an area of land known as the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor.
Formerly Christchurch’s ‘residential red zone’, the 11-kilometre stretch of land is nearly twice the size of New York’s Central Park and four times the size of London’s Hyde Park.
Regenerate Christchurch is responsible for developing the regeneration plan for the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor and says a mix of naturally-occurring and new activities has potential to attract up to a million unique visitors a year.
A “green spine” will extend along the river, up to 150 metres wide on each side, with large areas of ecological restoration, wetlands and community spaces. Elsewhere, there will be three significant areas suitable for a variety of potential public and private land uses reflecting themes of food and culture, experiencing nature and activity and play.
“These will create opportunities for school children and researchers to learn about the natural environment to better understand the challenges and opportunities within a truly living laboratory,” Regenerate Christchurch Chief Executive Ivan Iafeta says.
Regenerate Christchurch has developed a refined shortlist that will feature in an upcoming public exhibition. Ivan says implementation of the plan is likely to be the beginning of a 30-year intergenerational programme of work.
You may notice a change in the Christchurch skyline this month with the first of the steel trusses being placed to support the roof of the Convention Centre.
These first trusses span 50 metres and sit over the 1400-person auditorium. They give you the first real opportunity to gain some appreciation of the scale of the facility, which occupies two city blocks.
In total around 4500 tonnes of primary and secondary steel will be required for the building.
About a third of the facility’s 25000m3 of concrete has now been poured, with work on the foundation of the 3600m2 multi-use exhibition hall currently underway.
Concrete pumps have also been hard at work on the walls, which are being poured in place rather than being trucked in as the more conventional precast panels. This is because supporting the roof over these large open spaces and achieving the appropriate earthquake resilience requires walls around half a metre think. As a result, it would very difficult to truck in precast panels this thick and heavy.
A great place to watch ‘François’ the French tower crane and the German crawler crane ‘Helping Hans’ go about their work on the Convention Centre is Victoria Square. When the facility opens in 2020 it will be the other way around, with the Convention Centre’s meeting rooms on Armagh Street offering impressive views of the historic statues, garden beds and Bowker Fountain in the Square.
But for now, just keep looking up.
The success of the recent Lantern Festival has given Christchurch the first real taste of what a spectacular stage Te Papa Ōtākaro/Avon River Precinct can be for this city.
Thousands of people made their way along parts of the riverside promenade to find a vantage point on the steps of the Terraces or Worcester East punt stop. It was great to see this new space embraced in such a way.
It is easy to go past the remaining sections of the Avon River Precinct that are currently under construction and mistake them for roadworks. However, this project will see the riverside promenade stretch some two kilometres from the Hospital to the Margaret Mahy Family Playground when completed at the end of the year.
While the Avon River Precinct will bring more greenery to the central city and create an entirely new way to move across it, more importantly it is a catalyst for private development along the river.
Leading the charge of course, have been the hospitality ventures between Hereford and Cashel Street. We’ve also seen an impressive restoration of the former Café Roma building and the Public Trust building will follow suit. The Re:Start Mall site is also now making way for the start of works on the Riverside Farmers Market.
With Avon River Precinct works underway on the riverbanks between Victoria Square and the playground more opportunities will open up.
So, thanks to ChristchurchNZ and all those who attended the Lantern Festival for reminding us of the potential that lies along the river.
There would be few developments in the emerging city, in which the goal is to change as little as possible. But that was the brief for Ōtākaro Limited, when it came to the restoration of Victoria Square.
In fact, when it comes to projects, this is one in the developmental spotlight – both in the figurative and literal sense of the expression – with the urban green space home to Australasia’s first illuminated electric fountain, the Bowker Fountain.
The 13-month restoration project was delivered by Ōtākaro Limited on behalf of the Crown, in collaboration with Christchurch City Council and Matapopore on behalf of Ngāi Tūāhuriri/Ngāi Tahu.
“The Canterbury earthquakes left Victoria Square in a poor condition, with uneven paved surfaces creating ponding areas, trip hazards and subsidence issues in this popular public space,” Ōtākaro Chief Executive Albert Brantley says.
“By replacing the 170,000 pavers and installing around three kilometres of new underground pipe and cabling for upgraded irrigation, drainage and lighting, Victoria Square’s lifespan has been extended for decades and it is safer and more accessible.”
A new punt stop opposite the Town Hall will enable people to make greater use of the Avon River and Victoria Square will now tie in with the river promenade currently under construction.
The restoration of Victoria Square and the repair and upgrading of the adjoining sections of Colombo Street and Armagh Street has cost around $12.7m. The roadworks will be finished in May.
It’s not often that you get involved in a construction project where the aim is to keep almost everything the same, but after 13 months of work the fully restored Victoria Square was reopened to the public this month.
No major work had been carried out on Victoria Square since the 1980s, so time and the earthquakes had taken a bit of a toll, with cracked pavers and ponding proving hazardous.
A significant 40,000 man-hours, 2100 metres of cabling, 800 metres of pipe and 170,000 pavers later, the space has been returned to its former glory, with wider paths and additional lighting making Victoria Square more accessible.
Australasia’s first illuminated electric fountain, the 87-year-old Bowker Fountain, is also back to its colourful best, with new pumps and lights.
Additional features like the brass and concrete Kanakana table recognise the site and the city’s bi-cultural heritage.
All this effort went into Victoria Square because it is somewhat of a central city linchpin.
It sits along the river promenade that’s currently under construction, its neighbours are the Performing Arts Precinct and the Town Hall and people using the Convention Centre’s meeting rooms will be gazing out onto Victoria Square every time their eyes wander.
This restoration ensures the best of Christchurch is on show for anyone in the central city.
So, on a sunny day, why not come grab a Vanilla Ice, take a seat by the Bowker Fountain and reacquaint yourself with this restored space.
More Build & Out & About & Professionals & The Influencers