Futurescape: Some wild predictions for the future of central Christchurch

Futurescape: Some wild predictions for the future of central Christchurch

What does the Christchurch CBD look like in the future? What's Hot New Zealand hazards some uneducated guesses.

The vibe tour

The central city has become a mosaic of little neighbourhoods, each with its own personality. The retail district has become the heart of the city – walking streets and mixed-use zones have spread out from Cashel Street, filled with large and small stores ranging from hyperlocal boutiques to high-end international brands, and dotted 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 fully redeveloped Canterbury Museum, but its crowning glory is a brand new high-rise in Cambridge Terrace – a controversial development that houses a goldmine of 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 to the plush surrounds of Victoria Street. 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 fashion 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 for anyone who’s anyone – 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 local 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 themselves thanks to extensive conservation and planting efforts.

The future citizen

There is no definitive citizen of central Christchurch, as the city has become more diverse and multifaceted. Just walking down Cashel Mall and along the riverfront reveals a melange of people going about their business, from professionals in their shorts and collared t-shirts (shirt-and-tie corporate wear is long a thing of the past), to young people in smart threads that change colour with the mood of the wearer and display moving advertisements on the back, to neo-hipsters rocking 2020s fashion staples. As post-quake housing has aged, it has 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 leisure and hospitality of the central city.

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.

After dark

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, Te 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.


Word on the street

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