Centre of attention: Living in Christchurch's central city
There’s been a sea change in the Christchurch central city – not just the buildings popping up and the gravel carparks disappearing. The feel of the place is changing, and we think it’s got something to do with the switch of gear in the residential scene.
We’re seeing SOLD signs all over the show, and an attitude to the people who live in the four avenues, that they’re proud central citizens. What's Hot New Zealand is taking a close look at central Christchurch living, the tropes, the developments, the people and what (we hope) is to come.
SATIRE What's Hot New Zealand sticks its tongue in its cheek with a take on some of the personalities who live between the four avenues.
She’s smart, she’s slick, she’s just landed her first six-figure job and she’s burnt her first month’s wage on an iPhone 12 and the deposit on a two-bedroom rental. Life is pretty good when the gym and the local cinema – easily her two favourite places to pass a weekday evening – are both just around the corner. She’s just scootered home from work via Riverside Market for some fresh weekend groceries, her fridge is stocked with Sauv and she’s about to text the girls to meet up for a pre-weekender at a pretty sweet new bar in High Street. Those fools may have to Uber into town and back, but she’s all set with a good pair of flats for a five-minute walk to funky town. Smart. Lives in the SALT District, home of the fun and fashionable. Often spotted carrying a KeepCup and a yoga mat. Catchphrase “Adulting so hard right now.”
The Hospo Hero
Management major by day, mixologist by night. He moved in with two classmates last year, and between them their jobs cover coffee, cocktails and chef duty. He’s just been promoted to bar manager and refers to himself as a “career hospo professional”, slinging martinis with a charming grin and an immaculately-ironed black shirt. He communicates with his close mates via a WhatsApp group chat called 'Chch kids 2.0', and with everyone else via Insta stories. Today he’s off duty and caught up on his readings, so he’s grabbing a late lunch of vegan loaded fries at The Welder before he hits up an art exhibition opening for some free canapés. Lives just around the corner from Welles Street. Often spotted cycling with a laptop bag slung over his shoulder. Catchphrase “Up2?”
The Happy Family
The kids’ eyes lit up when they saw their new neighbour was the Margaret Mahy Playground, but the real winner was Dad, who’s spent the last four years driving to and from parks with different combinations of sports equipment trying desperately to burn off a bit of his offspring’s energy. Now he’s sitting on a bench with The Press, keeping one eye on playground happenings and adjusting his Crusaders scarf while he reads about plans for the arena down the road. Mum’s walking home from a quick shopping mission and the afternoon is set aside for some quality family fun exploring the riverbanks – there seems to be more time for that now that commutes are a thing of the past. Lives in the Moa neighbourhood, just north of the Ōtākaro Avon River. Often spotted checking out the posters for kid-friendly shows in the Isaac Theatre Royal window. Catchphrase “Gelato time?”
The Empty Nesters
Got. It. Sorted. They held on to their big drafty villa for years after their youngest daughter moved out “just in case”. But this year they had a collective epiphany: they sold up, bought a warm apartment overlooking Hagley Park and never looked back. Now they spend their days practicing golf and their evenings catching concerts at the Town Hall and The Piano. They tell their kids they got a bargain because the home will only appreciate in value, especially once the Canterbury Multi-Use Arena and Parakiore Recreation and Sports Centre are finished (they only refer to these by their full official names). But really what’s got him buzzing is the idea that Springsteen might come back to rock the city, and she’s keen to have morning swims together before their customary stroll through the Botanic Gardens. Now that’s cute. Lives half way between green space and retail central. Often spotted carrying new indoor plants into the elevator. Catchphrase “You’ll never believe who we bumped into today.”
The Man About Town
Nobody’s quite sure what he does (something with computers?) but they sure know who he is. He greets his neighbours and baristas by their names, and seems to be everywhere at once, rotating between working from home, various local cafés, and his favourite shared working space. He visits the barber down the road at least twice a month, his Instagram account has over 2000 followers, and he takes the time to set up the lighting before posting a story. He owns six tailored suits thanks to the savings he makes by being part of a car share collective. He may have grown up in the ‘burbs, but he’s found his good life and can’t imagine going back to anything else. Lives next to Rauora Park, where he can see nature but doesn’t actually have to participate in it. Often spotted lifting at the gym. Catchphrase “This is gonna be a game-changer.”
WILD PREDICTIONS OF THE FUTURE
What might the Christchurch CBD look like in the future? What's Hot New Zealand hazards some out-there predictions.
The future vibe tour
The central city has become a mosaic of little neighbourhoods, each with its own personality. The retail district is the heart – walking streets and mixed-use zones have spread out from Cashel Street, filled with stores ranging from hyperlocal boutiques to high-end international brands, with spots of activity gathered around live musicians, street food and artists.
Across the river, an arts and heritage district has fully fledged. Its staples are The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora and the redeveloped Canterbury Museum, but its crowning glory is a brand new high-rise in Cambridge Terrace – a development that houses contemporary international art and projects 3D installations onto the footpath outside.
The Victoria district has become an inner-city extension of Fendalton and Merivale, where flashy homes and luxury accommodation are a stone’s throw from fine dining and high-end boutique retail stores.
Diametrically opposite, the SALT District’s High Street offers a grittier alternative. Some of the city’s most legendary bars and cafés have established themselves here, along with über-cool retail offerings that include up-and-coming designers and tech-savvy tattoo parlours that can implant the latest technology in your body.
The southern central city has become a place where the industrial brushes up with the residential and retail: it’s a hub of microbreweries and roasteries, and there’s even a new urban winery with a multi-storey hydroponic vineyard.
Meanwhile, the east frame has become the place to be – flats of 20-somethings live in between growing families and high-powered executives, who all bump shoulders in the shared spaces. A walk around the ‘hood reveals a thriving network of community gardens where residents pick herbs, take cuttings, pick up produce at honesty boxes, and socialise with their neighbours. A sprinkling of mature native trees are regular hangouts for tūī and korimako which have long been central city residents thanks to extensive planting efforts.
The future citizen
Walking down Cashel Mall and along the riverfront reveals a melange of people goign about their business, from professionals in shorts and collared t-shirts (shirt-and-tie corporate wear is long a thing of the past), young people in smart threads that change colour with the mood of the wearer, and neo-hipsters rocking 2020s fashion staples. Post-quake housing has aged and become more affordable, leading to an influx of students, families and first home buyers looking for that urban lifestyle, while new developments continue to attract the professionals who are sick of commuting and the retirees who want easy access to the city's leisure and hospitality facilities.
The new currency
No, it's not Dogecoin. It's time. Thousands have flocked to the central city to buy more minutes and hours by cutting out the hustle and bustle associated with living miles away from the best things in in Christchurch. And what are they spending the new currency on? Time to get home and relax after work; time to BBQ with friends on a Saturday afternoon; time to watch the family grow; time to drop into the local for a drink and a yarn before a big gig at the arena; time to take in every little thing this future city has to offer.
Taking an overseas holiday is sooo 2019. The future citizen can get away any night of the week using the latest virtual reality tech to see, taste, smell and feel the best the world has to offer.
Rooftop bars and penthouse apartments have become a real thing around Oxford Terrace, and a walkable skybridge connects many of them together. The whole riverside is lined with the kinds of haunts visiting celebs like to be spotted in. St Asaph Street and its surrounds have fully metamorphosised into rave central, where the quasi-industrial surrounds absorb the heavy beats of a thriving dance-bar scene, complete with skyward-facing spotlights and velvet ropes.
The Cathedral Square and Te Pae area has become a corporate dining and fancy pub zone, known for its swishy hotel bars and themed restaurants as well as the neighbouring performing arts district, where Isaac Theatre Royal, The Piano and the new Court Theatre are regularly frequented by a hot mix of talented locals and international acts. Around the corner, New Regent Street is the nightly haunt of the sit-and-sip crowd looking for relaxed cocktails and speciality drinks with a low-drama vibe.
Several late-night cafés have popped up around Manchester Street and Latimer Square, providing a place for the inner-city young and young-at-heart to mingle when the sun goes down.
The Kiwi acre (or 15,000 acres)
What's Hot New Zealand takes a look over the fence at the best back yard in town.
As far as yards go, this one’s pretty sweet. It’s got a big lawn, wicked water feature, curated gardens, and trees as far as you can see. We’re a city full of people who love to get out and do things, and we demand an outside area that fills our needs. Luckily, Ōtautahi central delivers in droves.
The central city’s shared space is so much more than a private garden could ever be. Hagley Park is the foremost part of our classic Kiwi plot. Te Māra Huaota o Waipapa Christchurch Botanic Gardens are a world-class display, and the best part is you don’t have to do any of the weeding and pruning yourself.
If you like a home with a good pond or a stream, check this out: it’s called the Ōtākaro Avon River. Instead of goldfish there are friendly native eels, and you can even punt, paddleboard or kayak down the river.
Cooler than Copehagen: What the real people think
What's Hot New Zealand gets the word on the street from real people living in Christchurch's central city.
1 Gwyn Guanzon
Your neighbours are… Chester Street East is a very supportive community. It has a Facebook page that can keep everybody in the loop. Why do you choose to live here? I moved to Christchurch three and a half years ago. I was enrolled in Ara and I preferred to walk to school.
2 Max Lucas
Neighbourhood: SALT district, Atlas Quarter. How’s the vibe? Urban. Secure. Private. Great community. Your neighbours are… Winnie Bagoes, The Welder, South City, Pak’nSave. Why do you choose to live in the four aves? The excitement of a ‘new’ city. Biggest drawcard? Access, by foot mostly.
3 Roz Paddy
Neighbourhood: Cambridge Terrace, near Margaret Mahy Playground. Biggest drawcard? The small complex we live in. It’s quality, close to amenities, and the location is great for public transport. How do you get around? Walk, scooter, car. Is work handy to home? Yes, very handy.
4 Simone Rewa Pearson
Neighbourhood: The Chester East community. How's the vibe? Beautiful, tree lined and friendly. Why do you choose to live here? It’s never boring. Always life and activity close by, with easy access to where we work, live and play. What's the Christchurch of the future? Modern and safe, with a thriving central city.
5 Peter Wells
Why do you choose to live in the four aves? Community. I live with 19 others in a Victorian backpackers (closed for COVID) that we've converted into a community house. It's a beautiful space to live and remarkably well organised. How do you get around? Mostly walking or cycling. It's easy to borrow a car to escape for a weekend.
6 Dale Deavoll
Your neighbours are… Great. Apartment living is very misunderstood. You share some things but you have the same level of privacy as you do in the suburbs. I'd even say people are actually more considerate when you share a wall or a stairwell. We cross the road and chat with neighbours, too. How does Christchurch's future look? Cooler than Copenhagen.
What's Hot New Zealand investigates what’s coming up in the central city.
If you’re not aware of the big hitters of the central city redevelopment, then you need to come out from under your rock and get excited about some so-called ‘anchor projects’. Nearly finished is Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre , which may not affect your day-to-day life but should bring a bustle of business into town from afar.
Next on the list for completion is Parakiore Recreation and Sport Centre, which will bring several pools (including a 50-metre competition pool) to the central city along with indoor courts, gym and other facilities. Then there’s the Canterbury Multi-Use Arena . Work hasn’t started on it yet so we don’t know all the details, but it’s going to have a roof for year-round sports including international rugby, excellent acoustics for massive gigs, and at least 25,000 seats.
There’s a whole lot of development incoming to keep the city’s artistic and cultural scene thriving.
New site for The Court Theatre courttheatre.org.nz/news
The Arts Centre revitalisation artscentre.org.nz/about-us/our-vision
Canterbury Museum redevelopment canterburymuseum.com/about-us/museum-redevelopment-plans
Moving to town
Thinking about making the move? Check out these great resources for info on living and working in Ōtautahi.
Explore the four aves
For your handy pocket guide to the Christchurch central city, complete with news on the latest and greatest local businesses, check out the Cityscape app. cityscape.co.nz/app
ONE CENTRAL Up to 900 homes planned as one of the key residential developments of the central city. Between Lichfield, Kilmore, Manchester and Madras Sts – fletcherliving.co.nz
RIVERBANK QUARTER A mixed residential and commercial development fronting onto the river between Colombo and Manchester Streets. 243 Cambridge Tce – dgmgroup.co.nz
LANEWAY APARTMENTS Retail on the ground floor, five storeys of apartment living above – including accessible housing and Kiwibuild homes. 150 Tuam St – inovo.nz
THE SPIRE Nine floors of beautiful residential apartments and penthouses on top of the Wyndham Garden Hotel. 64 Kilmore St – thespire.co.nz
There are also older homes hitting the market – perfect for heritage hawks, budget-conscious buyers and resident renovators.
A market view
Let’s find out what’s happening on the building front. What's Hot New Zealand gets the low-down from some of the big names behind the central city’s residential developments.
Russell Pyne – Fletcher Living Canterbury
Can you tell us about your residential developments in the central city? Fletcher Living has a number of developments either completed, underway or planned, all of which are components of our overarching project One Central. This incorporates some 14 land parcels within seven city blocks running between Lichfield Street in the south and Kilmore Street to the north, and framed by Manchester and Madras streets. Overall, we expect to provide housing options for upwards of 2000 residents across potentially 900 dwellings.
Which nearby attractions make it a cool place to be? With Rauora Park serving as the spine of the development, we love the open space and new art installations including VAKA ‘A HINA and the sections of the Berlin Wall. Along with our temporary installations like the pump track, basketball court, and mini golf, these have helped One Central become a vibrant, welcoming community in the heart of Christchurch.
What is the central city’s greatest asset? Perhaps in one word, ‘proximity’. There is so much amenity in such close proximity to One Central that people are loving the opportunity to walk to work, eat out, get to the gym in a couple of minutes, catch a show or meet friends for drinks and a meal. Others are looking to the opening of Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre and the building of the newly announced home for the Court Theatre opposite the library in Gloucester Street. When you add the Town Hall, the new Parakiore Recreation and Sport Centre and the Multi-Use Arena there is just about everything you need or want just moments away.
Gordon MacLeod – Ryman Healthcare
Can you tell us about Park Terrace? We have proposed to build a new central city retirement village complex on two sites we own on Park Terrace. We’re planning to build a Warren and Mahoney-designed village which will include apartments and rest home, hospital and dementia care. It will be home to more than 300 residents, and will include an indoor swimming pool, café and movie theatre as well as beautiful grounds for the residents to enjoy, right on Hagley Park.
Are you optimistic about this market? The population aged over 70 is growing fast and will almost triple over the next 30 years as the baby boomers retire. The projects will free up houses in the Christchurch market, and provide warm, architecturally-designed homes with care on hand. It will be one of the largest reinvestments in the city post the quakes. We’re in the midst of the biggest demographic change in generations.
What’s your vision for the city? Intergenerational living in a beautiful built environment. The city's well on the way to this. Finally!
Mike Greer – Mike Greer Homes
Can you tell us why you’re steering your attention towards inner-city, medium-density development? We have been building a lot of this housing in the North Island but hadn’t focused on it in Christchurch for years. The inner city needs more quality homes, and we knew we could do it well. So we decided to take on some larger central city projects.
Can you tell us about your residential developments in the central city? We have 33 townhouses going up in Armagh Street, another 33 being built in Peterborough Street, and 100 townhouses and apartments in Gloucester Street. They are all a mix of two- and three-level homes, some with garages or carparks.
Are you optimistic about this market? We are confident the time is right for larger, well-planned city developments. The city has moved so far, so quickly with some lovely commercial architecture – now it’s time for residential.
What’s your vision for the city? It's definitely a very young city, both in terms of its developments and its people. Over the next couple of years, more and more homes will pop up in the city. Finally we will see the end of gravel car parks.
What do you think about the new non-residential developments? I can’t wait for the convention centre to be finished. From what I’ve seen, it looks outstanding. Truly a world class asset for Christchurch.
Aaron Pero – Harcourts / The Spire
Can you tell us about The Spire apartments? They’re 29 apartments across four levels and sit on top of four floors of hotel rooms.
Are you optimistic about the central city real estate market? Yes, very optimistic. I'm meeting a lot of people who are wanting to give up the home in the suburbs and move into the city. Living in the city isn't just convenient; it's convivial and conducive to a better life.
What’s your five-second sales pitch for a central Christchurch apartment? Cut the commute and live above the city in luxury.
Who are you seeing move into these new homes? The Spire is mostly 50-plus couples from the suburbs wanting to spend less time maintaining houses and more time entertaining.
What is the central city’s greatest asset? I think with any city it is the people and it's no different here. We have a lot of great people doing amazing things across hospitality, retail and other businesses.
What’s your vision for what the city will become? I'd love to see lots of people living in the city and more large-scale projects like The Spire. The city has a lot to offer and now it just needs more people.
What’s your favourite central city neighbourhood? The north-west is my favourite, it's the closest to Hagley Park, the Art Gallery, and some great architecture. I'm biased because I'm selling a bit around there but I don't think that makes me wrong.