Thursday, 27 November 2014

Victoria Street

After the Christchurch quakes, City Council locked down the downtown in endless planning. Then central government didn't like Council's plan and put in the CCDU instead: not really an improvement, although at least they backed away from daft light rail plans.

Fortunately, CCDU was limited: they could plan the central city, but only within prescribed boundaries. Outside of the boundaries, things could still happen. Enter Richard Diver:
It is true that more than anyone else, Diver has been disrupting the tidy plans of the bureaucrats by throwing up buildings faster than they can blink. They had this lumbering Blueprint plan for the city core. But Diver has raced ahead, populating Victoria St with 10 office developments in quick succession - half of them now open, half on the go - creating his own alternative CBD on the city's northern corner.
No doubt Diver soon became a problem for the official rebuild - the Blueprint masterplan drafted by the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), the specially set-up arm of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera).
Small-scale redevelopment in Victoria St was fine. But the grumble became that Victoria St was being allowed to run riot, siphoning money away from where the government plan wanted it to go.
There were mutterings that Diver's buildings were cheap and temporary. He might have his A-grade tenants for a few years, but they would shift down to the classier city core eventually.
Diver laughs. There are some good-looking buildings out there. And the tenants have been investing millions on the interiors. "The amount of money they're spending on the fit-outs, they're not moving in a hurry."
It was another blow to the CCDU when high-flying software firm Telogis took the top four floors of 104 Victoria St, Countrywide's refurbished ANZ building.
The Blueprint has a designated innovation precinct over on the CPIT side of the city. But it is happening too slowly. Meanwhile Victoria St is fast returning to life, abuzz with bars and restaurants.
Read the whole thing. Really really great stuff.

Meanwhile, in CCDU/CERA land, John Roughan reports on Roger Sutton's SimCity visions:
As Christchurch waited for something constructive to happen behind the barricades, it became evident that Sutton was not Superman and Cera was just another bureaucracy. But he could still talk the talk and clearly enjoyed his celebrity.
Rather than restore life to the city centre as quickly as it could, Cera was demolishing most of the remaining buildings. It saw the city central as a blank canvas for civic planners to design what they pleased.
Not long before they issued their "blueprint" a group of out-of-town media were invited by Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee to see the progress. Sutton joined us for coffee in the delightful little mall of shipping containers that private enterprise had created amid the demolition cranes and debris. I expressed disappointment at the wider sceneand he replied with a sarcastic reference to the design of downtown Auckland.
It was a surreal moment. Nobody knew what to say. What can be said to someone who raises the aesthetic deficiencies of Queen St when the core of his city is lying in ruins all around? [emphasis added]
He didn't seem accustomed to criticism, he was used to being admired.
Maybe he'd have liked Queen Street's aesthetics better if they there ran Visible G-String Fridays.

It's taken three years, but I think most folks are now on about the same page on the Christchurch debacle. Hopefully this kind of approach is never ever repeated.

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