9 Apr 2015

Little sign of progress in quake-hit Cathedral Square

6:06 am on 9 April 2015

Construction noise is a familiar sound in central Christchurch, but the city's Cathedral Square is oddly quiet.

Tourists take photos through the fences surrounding the damaged Christchurch Cathedral, buildings are stuck in insurance stalemates and multi-million-dollar rebuild projects around the square are yet to be realised.

Re-development of Cathedral Square has stalled since the 2011 earthquake.

Redevelopment of Cathedral Square has stalled since the 2011 earthquake. Photo: Wikicommons

More than four years after the February 2011 earthquake devastated Christchurch's CBD, the city's authorities have said they will not start a $9.2 million renovation of Cathedral Square until other rebuild projects are underway and the future of Christchurch Cathedral is unknown.

Ongoing legal action and community opposition has delayed the church's decision to demolish the building and replace it with a contemporary cathedral, and its fate is still uncertain.

Spokesperson for the Anglican diocese, Jayson Rhodes, recently said the Church Property Trustees were aware of how important a decision about the cathedral's future is to the rebuild.

Bare land lies to the northwest and northeast points of the square, earmaked for the planned convention centre and central library.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit has nine sites scheduled for demolition this year, on four anchor project sites.

Acting unit director Baden Ewart said the Crown still had more properties to buy for its rebuild projects and he was unsure when all demolition would be completed.

"I'd love to say by the end of the year, but I know I'd be wrong."

He said it was hoped that Crown-owned building would be demolished this year, but privately-managed buildings may take longer.

Mr Ewart acknowledged that uncertainty about the convention centre design, the cathedral's future and the square's refurbishment was delaying reinvestment in that part of the city.

He said the design proposal for the convention centre would be "quite instrumental" in determining what the square would look like.

"The Cathedral conversation will go on for a while yet and I can understand why people are a bit reluctant to commit to town while that conversation goes on."

He said the $9.2 million makeover of the square would happen in conjunction with the openings of the new library and convention centre, which are at least two years away.

Mr Ewart said the revamp could include changing the square's layout, providing laneways and more grassed areas and would involve consultation with the Anglican diocese and the public.

Christchurch property developer, Antony Gough, said the square was "a bit of a chicken and egg situation" because developers wanted to know what the square would look like but its refurbishment was dependent on what will surround it.

Several prominent buildings around the square are subject to ongoing insurance and commercial problems.

The fates of the former BNZ House, the 14-storey Millennium Hotel and the heritage-listed Old Post Office building, are still unknown.

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