Cities are built by people – those with courage and confidence in their endeavour, and the good fortune of money to spend.
Not many people are building in Christchurch at present. Some commercial landowners are waiting for insurance money, others are weighing up rebuild costs. Some have sold, others have left. Some, however, have big plans.
Developer Richard Diver is spending a lot of money on Victoria St.
Before the quake he owned a block of buildings on the street. He has since been buying up now-empty lots to build on and damaged buildings to fix up.
The four-storey replacement for his demolished shops, near the corner of Victoria St and Bealey Ave, should be completed in April and will house his finance company franchise, Credit Express, as well as as several other tenants.
He is also halfway through a major refit of the Kimberleys Fashions building at 145 Victoria St, which should be finished about the same time.
A six-storey building project, also on Victoria St, was due to start in March and would be completed by late this year or early next.
Planning for a single-storey restaurant and bar at 50 Victoria St is under way and Diver hopes construction will begin in three months.
He plans to build a five-storey building at 105 Victoria St, on a section he has just bought. However, it still needs consent and would probably be at least six months away from starting work, he says.
He is close to securing a large inner-city lot close to the red zone and is also looking for another site to develop.
All the properties under construction and almost all of those planned have tenancies locked in, he says.
It's good to hear that people are determined to rebuild central Christchurch; but it's sobering that they continue to run into brick walls; read on:
Diver's biggest issue is getting consent to start building, he says. Some of the buildings will cost about $15 million each and every delay costs money.
The council's Urban Design Panel, which examines proposed large commercial buildings and makes suggestions, has made his buildings better. However, it also meant more waiting before developments could get off the ground.
If the committee worked concurrently with the rest of the consent process it could be more time-efficient, he says.
The task of rebuilding and completing the major refit work which many buildings need, seems too much for many landlords unused to developing, he says.
"It's a difficult process. It's very, very hard; very, very complicated. And unless you're geared up to do it and you've got your mind round it, it's quite scary, I suppose."
Whilst it's not surprising that the Christchurch City Council is being conservative about redevelopment plans, surely a balance needs to be struck. If developers are willing to invest in the city, one would hope that the CCC would be making the process user-friendly, not creating unnecessary delays.
And another developer reports similar issues:
The building is about six weeks from completion, and she hopes never to have to do it again. Her architect has been a de facto project manager for the build and she says he deserves a few bottles of wine for all his help.
A project management firm had pushed to take control of the build at the beginning, but Beadle says she thought another 10 per cent added to a rebuilding cost already well over the insurance payout was an unneeded expense.
She thought the council would welcome people trying to rebuild. However, she felt it was unyielding about things she thought were inconsequential. "They made us jump through hoops to prove the original buildings were legitimately built without car parks. They were built in 1920. No-one had cars back then. We just want to reinstate what was there."
We understand that the CCC has a legal obligation to ensure that all new buildings meet building codes, especially since the report on the collapse of the CTV building was released. But surely, if Christchurch is to be rebuilt into the modern, vibrant city we all hope it will be, the council needs to encourage development, not discourage it.