Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Christchurch: Is "quite good" good enough?

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  • James Norcliffe,

    While my intitial feelings were that parts of this look great and the plan overcomes my one of my earlier misgivings - that so much of Christchurch was atomised into small areas of land owned by and at the whim of individual owners obviating any overall "vision" (although I also have doubts about vision) or archictectural & design harmony, I still wonder.
    The green frame areas and 'campus" feel are promising, but the cynical side of me suggests that this may merely be a revisiting of Edward Gibbon Wakefield's "sufficient price" upon which Christchurch was founded, artificially restricting supply to maintain property value, and incidentally to maintain the class structure of 19 Century England. Some might say Christchurch still maintains this today.Marx has a swipe at this idea in Capital.
    I also share the bewilderment at the simple faith in convention centres as a generator of growth and the prominence given to this aspect. Surely a couple of international hotels could provide all the convention space Christchurch is likely to need in these days of peak oil. I'm currently living in Dunedin in the shade of their stadium and so have mixed feelings about that as well.
    Finally, I've not seen much comment about the intention to build a cricket stadium in Hagley Park. I would have thought the air would be already full of feathers, although perhaps people are seeing a quid pro quo with the frames and the Avon development.

    Christchurch • Since Sep 2011 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Silverfish leave Chchch...

    It’s bloody hard to fit scruffy second-hand
    bookshops into a big, shiny plan

    For that I think you'll have to go to New Brighton which has a couple of the only second hand bookshops extant in Chchch...

    ...and eventually Woolston, or as Philip Matthews has coined it 'Faux-pawa' - what, no 'Tannery Row'?
    "- )

    Personally I think we should have few years (or longer) of street markets, with bookstalls like the they have along the Seine in Paris...

    I don't see a Government/Admin precinct or the much vaunted Education Precinct in this big new plan either... and it looks like with the same lack of vision that doomed cricket at AMI (Lancaster park) they intend to have cricket in the new Oval in Hagley park - ie something else NOT happening in the new shiny empty stadium or precinct, seems daft to me...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7947 posts Report Reply

  • James Caygill,

    I'm excited. I spent three years running the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy immediately pre-quake and this looks at first and second glance to be a solid platform. (With all the usual caveats around planning vs reality - the fact that it's the grit and chaos which make cities work not the monoliths etc).

    Yes we've had plans before but this was always going to be the process once it was mandated by the CER Act. CCC did something, then CERA took another cut. Now that's done we can move on.

    And that's mainly my view. I just want things gotten on with - particularly the acquisition of land.

    A lot of the concerns in comments are justified but also seem to lie at the next level of detail down. How these projects are now put together will clearly be crucial. A new town hall, for example, could replace the world class acoustic we've lost and showcase orchestral music - or it could be a Michael Fowler Centre, in which case everyone else can stand in line behind me in the queue to burn it down.

    There is actually loads of room for residential development in the Four Aves (I live two blocks from the Frame and the new stadium site). It does look as though residential is being preferred outside the Frame -- but in truth it's too hard to tell. I can't track down a copy of the Appendix which contains the detail on the designations and regulatory changes which might indicate the degree to which mixed use is actually contemplated in the CBD.

    As for cries of "trains, trains, trains" - they'll take care of themselves over time provided the corridors they need to run in are protected. There's not the population in the right parts of Christchurch to warrant the investment at the moment - but there will be.

    Ed - the problem with using the heavy rail lines is the amount of freight traffic already on them. Those lines are how the coal gets to the port and they're very busy already. They also don't go where the people want them to.

    A lot of work has been done in researching passenger rail in Christchurch which will stand the city in good stead when the time comes to start investing in it. But despite what Bob Parker might say, that time is not now, nor likely to be in the next ten years.

    Christchurch • Since Oct 2007 • 34 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    There were some great ideas in the post-quake TEDxEQChch event too. Especially Sacha McMeeking on Ngai Tahu's history and vision, and urban designer James Lunday entertainingly sketching what a human-scale Chch could look like in the context of other urban rebuilds (audio is echoey, but worth it):

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    in fact what we need is some deliberately crummy, short term buildings like the container mall. Then I predict that by 2030, people will be wringing their hands about how to stop the iron rusting and writing columns celebrating the quirky and unusual workshops and galleries that inhabit the marginal structures that were never meant to live that long.

    I agree. And I think it's the unique and quirky small businesses that will give the CBD its character, but they don't seem to have rated a mention in the plan.

    And while I think the Frame is great, it's a little different from the "City in a Garden" that the Council Draft Plan suggested: there, the CBD was full of green spaces alternating with buildings.

    Worst-case scenario would have the Frame as a green desert enclosing big dark boxes with chilly canyons between.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to James Norcliffe,

    The green frame areas and 'campus" feel are promising

    Same. The prospects for a buzzing mix of high-value daytime work and resident-fuelled nightlife seem highest in that part.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Convention centres are privatised town halls.

    Word.

    I'm still honestly not getting it. Wasn't the previous convention centre owned by the council and connected to the Town Hall? I can't see the virtue in rejecting meeting places. Anyway, the tourism people seem over the moon about it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Tim Croft,

    a rail connection from the airport, through to UC, then to Riccarton, past the hospital (and perhaps the cricket ground), new metro sports hub, then into the bus exchange

    Thanks. I wasn't imagining that route clearly yesterday but it makes more sense than along Memorial Ave, etc.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • Ed Muzik, in reply to Tim Croft,

    The $400 million figure comes from the ... council. And it's for one line. To do a full network would be close to $2 billion. That's from their figures. I like trains, I'd love to see them in Christchurch. But they only work if there is a network of them, if you can get from one place to another. Running a line from the CBD (where no-one lives) to the airport, through Christchurch's most affluent suburbs is nice-to-have project for a demographic who already benefit most from council services.

    If it doesn't stack up economically - like the stadium - then I don't think the council should be having to fork out for it.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Wasn’t the previous convention centre owned by the council and connected to the Town Hall? I can’t see the virtue in rejecting meeting places. Anyway, the tourism people seem over the moon about it.

    The old Convention Centre was OK, but it wasn’t used by locals and was a big box* that we had to walk past to get to other things. Putting one on the Square would be stupid, because the Square needs community things for the locals or it will re-create the farce it was pre-quake, surrounded by tourist shops and facilities, but otherwise dead.

    Yay for the Library on the Square, though! :-)

    *So different from when the Star newspaper offices were on that site, and people were constantly bustling in and out! :-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Moata T,

    While there are things I really like about the blueprint and others I'm not so keen on and a few "gaps" that I hope someone somewhere isn't making a huge cock up of, the basic question is "would I want to live in this city?" and my answering is a resounding "fuck yeah".

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2011 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Croft, in reply to Ed Muzik,

    Which is fine ... I agree with you, but long term?

    I like Seattle's approach to this issue. They built the space knowing long term they would grow and need rail and subway lines so set aside the space but didn't initially build the lines or have the trains.

    And that's what I'd like here: a long term acknowledgement that this is something that Christchurch may need to do. Riccarton Road is choking as is Blenheim Road at times. It may be tolerable now, but in the future rail as a necessity may be needed.

    Tuscaloosa • Since May 2008 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Consequences – Light rail to the airport could give the council’s Airport company a hit in the parking revenue pocket, it seems to be their cash cow*, unless of course they price the light rail prohibitively, too….

    and I have yet to see convincing numbers to make the university connection useful, most people out that way shop out there too…

    In chchch we should worry more about lie trails than Light Rails – Gawd, Gerry Brownlee simpering for the cameras last night was more than I could stomache…

    *I will always arrange to pick up and drop off rather than park at the airport in future since they dropped the free 15 minute period, it’s virtually $4 just to turn your engine off…

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7947 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Anyway, the tourism people seem over the moon about it.

    Naturally - it's the public funding their industry's core infrastructure. :)

    Here's hoping the redevelopment of the Avon banks actually keeps that space for the people of Chch, not just visiting delegates.

    Event centres and stadiums tend to be inward-facing buildings that don't give much energy to their surrounds except for peak crowds that can be hard to engage with and result in empty crowd-scale plazas the rest of the time.

    The retailers that conference attendees might buy from during breaks are designated to the South of the convention centre. I imagine hospitality businesses clustering nearby, with the performing arts precinct immediately to the North as well - though the on-site hotels may score a good share of that incidental business.

    As for the stadium, even the PM acknowledged it will end up surrounded by sports bars, but what will that neighbourhood be like during the day? Will residents or businesses want to co-locate there? Are they even allowed to?

    The CBDU planning team seemed pretty onto-it during the Campbell Live story last night, so presumably they've thought all this through. It's the politicians they report to I have less faith in.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Sacha,

    Meanwhile here’s the City Council-led 30-year draft Transport plan. Who knows if it means anything.

    Only the bits that support National's vision for m0ar roads mean anything. The rest of it is just blather from people who don't accept the innate supremacy of the private automobile.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Moata T,

    Yeah, I have gripes but it could have been a lot worse. Considering the huge range of opinions out there, that's quite an achievement.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Ed Muzik, in reply to Tim Croft,

    If you want light rail in the long term, you could do worse than lobbying CERA / the council to stop consenting subdivisions further and further out into the plains

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to James Caygill,

    There is actually loads of room for residential development in the Four Aves (I live two blocks from the Frame and the new stadium site). It does look as though residential is being preferred outside the Frame -- but in truth it's too hard to tell. I can't track down a copy of the Appendix which contains the detail on the designations and regulatory changes which might indicate the degree to which mixed use is actually contemplated in the CBD.

    I couldn't tell either. You can download the Appendix with the District Plan changes from the top of the main CBDU Plan page. Be interested to hear more about what your expert eyes make of it.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    There was an interview on Nine to Noon this morning with property developer Richard Peebles . He sounded pretty devastated that almost all his plans for redeveloping historic buildings and sites were wiped out in the plan. Don't know enough about the detail but he sounded absolutely deflated, when surely he should be one of the enthusiasts/ inner circle.

    It also seems a bit rich giving no costings for anything at this stage. Someone suggested it was going to cost ratepayers $500 a year for these amenities yet no one seems to care about their broken homes. The launch (as shown on Campbell Live) seemed to be populated by balding white men in suits. Not much diversity evident.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3218 posts Report Reply

  • Moata T, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    The only thing left to do is everything.
    And I am going to enjoy just a few minutes of believing that it will all go swimmingly...

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2011 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    It's all very well, but isn't job #1 to see that people have a place to live and work that they can afford? And are they going to be tearing down usable buildings to make these parks? That would seem criminal to me.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Sacha,

    As for the stadium, even the PM acknowledged it will end up surrounded by sports bars, but what will that neighbourhood be like during the day? Will residents or businesses want to co-locate there? Are they even allowed to?

    This is why I wonder why it has to be in the CBD. A stadium has even less to do with the normal life of the city than the Convention Centre does. And I remember the throngs of angry-drunk and manic-drunk people streaming to and from Lancaster Park, as it was then, on match nights. And how most of the time the stadium sat empty.

    Can't it stay in Addington?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    surely he should be one of the enthusiasts/ inner circle

    Only in an alternate Chch. This plan (and Brownlee all along - points for consistency) prioritises those who will develop new buildings, not keep old ones alive.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

  • Ed Muzik,

    The Council annual plan 2012-13 announced a 7.5% rates rise in anticipation of having to pay for key projects: the stadium, part of the convention centre, replacement for QEII, art gallery repairs, town hall etc. I would expect that they will still be expected to pick up the tab for most of this. (Page 9 of this CCC Plan)

    They've budgeted ~$200 million for an uncovered stadium, and expect $140 million in insurance. Will be interesting to see what sort of cost is forecast for a roof.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    isn't job #1 to see that people have a place to live and work that they can afford?

    Job #1 is to make sure private sector investors (especially bearing foreign currency) have their needs met, hence the flavour of crowd at the launch event. Think of this plan first and foremost as a reassuring investment prospectus. Which is not to say it is necessarily a bad plan for that.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19728 posts Report Reply

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