On a recent Saturday morning, walking to the Canterbury Earthquake Memorial service, I was struck by the importance of ‘people spaces’ to our central city.
A space like Worcester Boulevard, which existed before the quakes, connects the river and city centre at one end with the Christchurch Art Gallery, Museum, Botanic Gardens and the Arts Centre. On this mild, Saturday morning it was bustling with visitors and locals alike, many bound for Electric Avenue.
Along the Avon River Precinct, people were sitting on the leafy inclines of the riverbank. On the adjacent City Promenade, which is probably the most popular amenity we have completed to-date, a steady flow of cyclists, pedestrians and joggers were making use of this pleasant new central thoroughfare.
Heading upstream, I started to hear the buzz of the vibrant new Riverside Market, where happy diners were enjoying brunch in the sun on the seating that spills out onto the Promenade.
Contrast that with the sombre but serene feeling of the Canterbury Earthquake Memorial, where I was honoured to place a wreath.
Together with the grassy, tree-lined north bank side of the memorial, this is a great space to both sit and reflect, and for our city to host large, commemorative events.
My team at Ōtākaro is really proud of these ‘people spaces’ we are building in central Christchurch.
Clearly these places, where we get to experience the whole gamut of emotions, are important to us.
Many of us have spent much of the past few weeks staring at rugby fields as the World Cup rolls on.
Put two of these fields side by side and you’ve got an area similar to that covered by the Metro Sports Facility, which we currently have under construction.
We’re now into the thick of the foundation concrete pours on the site that will support the nine indoor courts and the competition, diving and leisure pools.
In total, the project will require around 16,000m3 of concrete and 3700 tonnes of structural steel to build. That’s only slightly less than our other major project, Te Pae, which everyone can clearly see is a substantial central city building.
Once all the foundations are poured for the Metro Sports Facility, people travelling along Moorhouse Avenue and St Asaph Street will start seeing the structural steel going up early next year.
We know that thousands of people will visit, and dozens of events will be held at the Metro Sports Facility each year once the doors are open, providing an economic boost for the city. But it’s worth remembering the build itself is also doing that, with over 300 people expected to be working on the site at the height of construction.
That’s a big team, doing an important job, but I appreciate it’s not the main sporting fixture we’re all focused on at the moment.
“We have lived and breathed this project for three years. To see it come to fruition, looking and feeling just as we imagined it, is far more than simply satisfying. It is absolutely thrilling. Now we want the people of Christchurch to love it too.”
Richard Peebles, Mike Percasky and Kris Inglis – the men behind High St Lanes and Little High Eatery – witnessed the opening of their latest development, the Riverside Farmers’ Market in Christchurch’s city centre, on Monday 30 September.
“We had heard a great deal from overseas about the growth phenomenon that is urban farmers’ markets. Selling local growers’ and producers’ fresh products locally has become a worldwide trend based on the ethics of sustainability and the need to reduce food miles and our carbon footprint. There is a superb example of this concept in Copenhagen that we researched and that convinced us Christchurch was right for a similar venture.”
A development of the scale envisioned right in the heart of the city would not have been possible without the availability of a suitable site. The one viewed as optimal by the property investors was at the intersection of Cashel Mall and Oxford Terrace, occupied by the Container Mall. “This was the beginning of a long process of convincing the right people of the viability of our vision and of eventually negotiating to purchase the site from Ōtākaro Ltd, the Crown-owned company delivering the central city anchor projects.”
An initial concept design with 3D modelling by John Ayres of Creative Studios, Christchurch architectural designers, was modified and tweaked several times. That, along with irrefutable evidence of the benefits of farmers’ markets presented by the three indefatigable partners of the Peebles Group, eventually won the day and the concept could begin to transform into reality. “We demonstrated how much this development could contribute to the regeneration of the central city, to the engagement of Christchurch citizens and to the activation of the entire area.”
The result is a stunning complex of four buildings interconnected by lanes leading from the Avon River through to Ballantynes. It includes a 3,500 square metre farmers’ market with about 70 vendors and food stalls, as well as laneways with boutique retail businesses. “The complex has a rustic and heritage vibe, reflecting the history of the city and deliberately incorporating recycled materials – rimu, bricks, iron-bark wharf timber, windows, 100-year old wallpaper and even two faces of the clock from the Moorhouse Ave railway station.”
The investors acknowledge that the project could not have eventuated in the way it did without the input of all the consulting firms – DCM Urban Design, Creative Studios, Kirk Roberts, Bonisch Consultants, Novo Group, Holmes Fire, Kirkcaldie Interiors, ThompsonCo, White Associates and the main contractor Consortium Construction. “We have entrusted these specialists with previous developments and once again they have delivered.”
Richard, Mike and Kris want the complex to become the heart of the city, to attract people into town and to keep them there. It won’t be a place purely to buy food and to eat it; it will be a hub, attracting festivals, choirs and events and hosting musicians and handicraft vendors. “We think it is set to become Christchurch’s number one tourist attraction.”
No sooner had we started construction on the Metro Sports Facility that the questions started coming in about car parking.
It’s great that people are so excited about the facility, so let’s take this opportunity to look at what lies outside of the building.
A significant portion of the site is being made available for parking. There will be around 550 car parks for people visiting and working at the Metro Sports Facility. By comparison, the similarly large Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre has 459 spaces for visitor use.
Access to the Metro Sports Facility car park will be managed by the Christchurch City Council, as the owner of the facility.
The Metro Sports Facility’s location on Moorhouse Ave will also assist with parking as a lot of the businesses in the streets to the south operate during standard working hours. This means there will be additional on-street parking available in the area in the evenings and weekends; the facility’s busiest times.
Of course, a car won’t be your only option. The Metro Sports Facility sits on the major St Asaph Street and Antigua Street cycle routes.
It’s also about 900 metres away from the Bus Interchange and one block away from the Health Precinct bus stops. The Health Precinct stops are the busiest in the central city and we are currently giving them a major upgrade that includes large shelters.
We want this to be a facility for people of all abilities, ages and stages, and the accessibility of the location is integral to that.
We’ve delivered roads, parks, laneways, a promenade and we have two of the largest buildings in the city under construction – Te Pae and the Metro Sports facility.
But later this year Ōtākaro will take on a new type of project with the North Frame pedestrian bridge. The 32-metre-long, four-metre-wide bridge will connect Cambridge and Oxford Terraces between Colombo and Manchester Streets.
The bridge sits on what we call a ‘desire line’, the route people would take over the bend in the Avon River if it were possible. It will make the trip through the city along the Avon River Precinct quicker for cyclists and pedestrians.
With residential and other private developments planned for the North Frame, it makes sense for us to get in now to do the work, ahead of an influx of people living, working and visiting this area. Christchurch City Council expressed a desire for the bridge to be functional, simple and low maintenance, and this concept design reflects that.
The bridge will run perpendicular to the river, to encourage approaching cyclists and scooter riders to reduce their speed and will mean the main vertical elements of the Taurapa sculpture, which was commissioned by the Seattle Sister City Committee in 1997, will not need to be moved. Work is likely to get underway around November and take about six months to complete.
Out of our long list of construction projects, I’m confident this will be the only one with the added challenge of having to work around the trout spawning season.
‘Building places for people’ is Ōtākaro’s mantra and through this mild autumn it’s been satisfying seeing locals and visitors alike enjoying the public spaces we have created.
We have been especially heartened by the public response to the new City Promenade, our conversion of two kilometres of Oxford Terrace from a conventional street into a shared space, primarily for pedestrians, cyclists and the ubiquitous scooters.
The Promenade really accentuates the river waterfront as a key feature of central Christchurch. A nurse at Christchurch Hospital at the western end of the Promenade told us how much she enjoys her stroll to and from work along the Promenade and the owner of a local backpackers says he gives his guests directions to many city attractions like the Botanic Gardens, Art Gallery or Antigua Boatsheds in relation to the Promenade.
It was great to see the Promenade used as an event space during ChristchurchNZ’s wonderful Lantern Festival. We now have a large events area that links Cashel Mall with the ever-popular Victoria Square, which we restored earlier last year.
In the East Frame, we are also seeing more people in Rauora Park, particularly cyclists and pedestrians using it as a thoroughfare, and new businesses and other amenities are helping to create activation around the lanes and gathering spaces in the South Frame.
There is still much work for us to do to complete the Crown-led anchor projects and we are very proud of our contribution to creating a vibrant CBD for the people of Christchurch.
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.