How not to repair a Heritage Building in the Christchuch CBD, Part 167….

So, whats new in Lower High Street…..

Most of the Billen’s building is gone as is the mess that was behind the frontage of McKenzie and Willis.  So that is an improvement.

Billens and McKenzie sites finally clear.

Billens and McKenzie sites finally clear.

Demolition contractors will start in the next few days “making safe 163 High Street”.

Section 38

Section 38 “make safe” about to begin on last unit in Duncans Building.

The Tuam St/High Street intersection is STILL a sea of road cones. It is pure incompetence on the part of the roading contractors that this area is not sorted. It is manifestly unfair on the few businesses trying to make a living in this area.

The hopeless progress on the High Tuam Intersection. A intolerable situation for retailers. 8-9 months progress!

The hopeless progress on the High /Tuam  Sts Intersection. An intolerable situation for retailers. 8-9 months progress!

I finally got our amended building consent from the CCC and we have gibbed and started plastering our ceiling and relaid a small section of floor that we had not seen for many years, that turned out to be seriously “munted”. ( (Not level).

It took 18 months to get permission to gib this ceiling. There is a serious bottle neck in the Fire safety department of consents at the CCC.

It took 18 months to get permission to gib this ceiling. There is a serious problem in the Fire safety department of Building consents at the CCC.

  • I also notice that it is Heritage week in Christchurch. I was surprised that the tours do not include High Street.  Pity.
  • I Notice that Barnaby Bennett took another shot at the Labour party in his latest opinion piece on Public Address.  I also see that that Press did not print it.  (With apologies to Tony Milne, who worked tirelessly for CHCH Central in his attempt to take the seat).

“The local MPs, including Ruth Dyson, Megan Woods and Eugenie Sage, have worked tirelessly and through huge workloads, but the Opposition en masse, the leadership, along with the national media, have failed to represent the scale of the issues here.  It’s all been seen as too hard, too detailed and too boring. The result of this is that the people here have not been well represented, or protected, throughout the biggest disaster in living memory in New Zealand”.

I agree with his views.   The Government and the opposition have failed to represent us. I pop the link here: http://publicaddress.net/speaker/11-ways-the-opposition-has-failed-christchurch/

Moving on….

It is with some irritation I have spent 2 weeks writing a submission for “Consultation number 4”.  Regarding the High/St Asaph/Ferry Road/Madras St intersection.  It has been hours of work. For the accessible city – transport projects proposed changes.

high st entrance

Oh what an irony, the plan that they propose locks off 2 of the 3 egress points from the street.  A situation that the retailers in the street have been fighting against for 40 plus years.  As long as I have been in High street and I hate to confess that it is nigh on 35 years, every few years the Council would come up with some new “idea” to shut off access to the street.  What it actually meant was that they could not cope with the diagonal nature of the street.  It just does not fit their roading models. All the models are designed to cope with a rectangular pattern. (CERA/CCDU have fallen into the same trap).

The plan that they have come up with is similar to all the others.  This latest version locks  off the egress BOTH to the west and the east and narrows the road way at the entry/exit point.  (Given that the street has no back access and heavy trucks are a regular feature of High Street, this plan is in the loony tunes basket).   It forces all our customers to egress thru a narrow slip way to the north.  The so-called “proposal” also reduces access to a narrow slip way with an awkward entrance. (What a bunch of flaming idiots.  They seem to have this bizarre idea that our customers do not want to be able to get anywhere near us).

The really annoying bit is that this plan was produced by CERA/CCDU or whatever they call themselves these days.  But the delicious irony is that it is delivered and packaged to us as consultation as a Christchurch City Council initiative.

I thought this nonsense had stopped.  After 5 years we are still being ruled by Wellington bureaucrats.

Well, when I got off my perch and checked it out, I found that the Christchurch City Council had not even seen this plan 24 hours before it was sent out to us. Collaboration and Co- operation???? hummn,  just more of the same treatment that the business and property owners have faced for the last 5 years.

I might add, I received the document in my mail box on the 23th September.  Consultation was swift indeed and had to be in by the 8th of October.  Really that is consultation????  Just who are you kidding.????? These are complicated documents and it takes weeks to get all the details required in a meaningful format.

I thought that an air of co-operation had finally descended on CERA/CCDU and that they had realised that they needed to stop acting like dictators and buzz off to what ever Wellington planet that they came from.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/69943847/council-claws-back-rebuild-power

“Following the discussion, cabinet recommended a more collaborative approach between Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Dalziel”.

yeah right!

Copy of Submission below,  for the really dedicated High Street fan!   Stop reading now if you want!  🙂

Unfortunately I believe the chances of winning this battle is slim and I suspect that many of the flaky decisions being made about roading in the city will need to be re addressed as soon as we get rid of the “powers that be”. Unfortunately as a small owner operator I do not have the connections needed to be noticed.  So I cheerfully continue this blogging until they top messing with me and start acting in a professional and thoughtful manner.

Apologies for the detail. The highlighted bits are the summary bits!

Re proposal for the  High St/Madras St/St Asaph St. Intersection

Background.
I am the only retailer/building owner and resident currently open and operating in the lower section of High Street,  so I will take the time to explain the situation here.  High Street is now trapped between 3 one way streets.  Further more, there has been a systematic, progressive dismantling of the historic “High Street diagonal link” as each section of High Street has been physically isolated from each other, often with “humps and bumps”.

The High Street Business Association has fought for the last 40 + years to keep the access and egress open and keep traffic flowing.   About 50 years ago when access to Ferry road was originally closed off and the one way system installed, High Street became a sea of empty buildings with boarded up windows. The street had become “too difficult” to get into and out off. It took 30 years for this situation to be reversed, slowly the street became tenanted by niche retailers and became a “destination”.  Lower High Street will now have one of only a few “Heritage Buildings”   (ie Duncans Buildings 1905)  left in the city and It is vitally important that we do not get isolated. We need traffic to be able to pass through the street and Short term park without too many obstacles.

I note also, that there is a No “Street Scape plan” for High St, this means that this current “proposal” is being implemented in isolation and is un-coordinated.  It is a piecemeal process, which involves picking off the intersections only, as has happened already at Tuam and Lichfield streets.

There are only going to be a very limited number of retailers in the lower High Street Block.  To survive this far from the CBD we will need to be specialised/destination shops.   We do not rely on foot traffic, nor do we rely on the polytechnic students. This means customers require easy access and egress: ie the ability to be able to pick up and drop off.

We also need constant turn over of car parks. Every 20 – 30 minutes ideally.  (This needs to be policed much more rigorously than in the past as both High  and St Asaph street’s have become cheap, long-term car parks for the Poly technic students and the surrounding building owners.)

Our Customers need access to parks within a reasonable  walking distance. Currently the parking building in Lichfield St is not available and the inner city free bus is not operating.

High Street needs traffic flow to stay vibrant and appealing.

The Proposal:

It makes the access and egress of Lower High Street more difficult and visually unappealing.

– A vehicle turning into Madras St (from St Asaph St) will have to cross over the 2 lanes of Madras St, to reach a  position in the far left lane to get into High St.  (Vehicles are likely to have a queue of cars behind them coming from St Asaph St  and also are likely to be exposed to oncoming traffic from Madras Street as the lights change.   The vehicle must also cross over the cycle lane.  There is no “safe area” other than the cycle lane. It needs a better turn off area.  

The right hand turning lane on St Asaph Street into Madras St – Will become more congested, as vehicles are both turning into High St and also wanting to go straight ahead on Madras Street.  

It is being made visually unappealing to turn into Lower High Street.  Customers face a TIGHT,  left hand turn, close to an intersection.  (It is going to be similar to the entrance from Manchester Street into the middle block of High Street. It is hard to find the  narrow entrance)    Visually it is being made difficult and unappealing.  This is not helpful to a street that is likely to be niche retail.

The  existing right hand slip way/turning lane from High Street into St Asaph St  gives our customers the option of getting direct access to the One Way Street  heading west with ease and safety.   
 The turn also creates the ability for “vehicles to go around the block”.  This is vital to any retail area.  

The proposal to get from High Street into St Asaph St will now require a 5 block detour, via Tuam/Barbadoes/St Asaph St’s,  or the alternative is  across Tuam, further down High Street than via Manchester Street, an even more difficult route.  This turn is VITAL to High Street in my opinion. A small narrow egress, cobblestoned and giving cyclists right of way, is easily achievable.  It does not require lights, as it operates as a free turn now.  (It will also break up what is going to be a large expansive of ugly asphalt.)
I see no reason to change the status quo.

The buildings along High Street DO NOT have off-street loading facilities and rely on the surrounding streets for delivery of goods.  The narrowing of the roadway at the High Street entrance/ intersection will make it difficult for heavy vehicles to access the street.

Our suppliers use large trucks to deliver product (heavy paper) to us.  We do not have access to the pedestrian lane way (that is going to be created behind the west side of High St).  The turning lane at the Madras Street Intersections is going to be too narrow  and too tight a turn to easily allow these truck access.  Currently large vehicles are having trouble leaving the street through the Madras Street slip way from Lower High Street, I am regularly watching drivers of heavy vehicles having a number of attempts at positioning themselves to get around the corner into Madras St.  It is too tight for large heavy traffic. And under this proposal there is no alternative route.

There will be a further loss of car parks/loading zone space in High St. This proposal means the loss of  part of the loading zone in front of 129 High Street.  This loading zone over the last 10 years has been extremely useful to both couriers and for short-term pick up and drop off’s. It should not be further reduced in size.

The widening of the footpath on the St Asaph Street (near the corner of High St/St Asaph st-along side 129 High Street). This is a dark, cold area, with limited foot traffic, there seems little point in narrowing off the street further at this point, and further reducing parking in this area. In effect that area will be asphalt and is and will continue to be unattractive.

The loss of the Ferry road link.  This is unfortunate as it further limits egress options from High street.  It is particularly useful for heavy traffic and a quick link to the east.

This proposal makes the implementation of the long-term CCC plan to extend the tram route to the restored Catholic Cathedral much more difficult to implement.  This is a shame as having the tram pass down a restored Heritage Street to a restored Heritage Cathedral is necessary addition to the tourist tram link as well as allowing transport options for the poly students heading towards the Lichfield bus depot.  

It is time for a parking building in the area.  This could also be used by the business owners, It would solve some of the parking issues.  (The proposed loss of 109 car parks adds to the areas problems, it does not solve them) A long-term solution to the parking issues involves the building of more parking building on edges of the city for staff/ owners to park and easy access to buildings.  Walking long distances with parcels, stock is not an option.

 Trees.    Large-leaved lime trees grow up to 35m tall.   35 metres  is too high. ( High st already has problems with the, currently, 13 metre high trees that we have with acorns and leaves).  The almost constant year round leaves gives maintenance problems and blocks roof and road gutters. “Go native”.  I suggest something a little smaller.

 History tells me that the work I have gone to here is pointless as there will be no real meaningful consultation with the building owners for the past 5 years.

 What a way to run a recovery.   

ps.  this is what 5 years progress on my house looks like.

5 years of progress by Southern Response, Benchmark and Arrow.

5 years of progress by Southern Response, Benchmark and Arrow.

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The continuing saga of a beseiged building owner in the Christchurch CBD… part 130

There was an interesting article by Liz McDonald in the CHCH Press 30th October 2013,  talking about the potential for the oversupply of office space that looks like it may become an issue for the city. Link Here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/9340046/Over-supply-of-office-space-expected

“Gary Sellars, director of valuation at Colliers in Christchurch added up the metres and warned care at a Property Council function last week.” “He predicted a requirement of 280,000sqm of office space for the whole city. One case scenario “if we build everything that is proposed” would lead to 350,000sqm of office space of which almost a fifth would be oversupply.”

Its simple really. Much of the new building activity is happening outside the frame. ( For obvious reasons. Our plight would stop anyone with any sense trying to rebuild in the CBD!).  It is unlikely that the businesses that have relocated outside the frame will be willing to move back to the CBD, they have long-term leases and the central city looks like Dresden. And given the fact that rebuilding inside the Frame is still at a standstill I can not see this changing. Also the rentals outside the frame will always be cheaper than inside the frame. The artificially created shortage of land has guaranteed this.

The articles in the press are coming thick and fast:

I confess that I was disappointed with the traffic plan.  Link Here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/9346033/New-Christchurch-transport-plan-praised   I felt sorry for the new Mayor Lianne Dalziel having to rubber stamp Gerry’s transport plan. I know from the whispers from my sources within the council that they really wanted to see the removal of all the one way streets. The best the council could do was slow the traffic down as it speeds through the city. I suspect that sooner or later this plan will have to be revisited. It is a 1960’s failed solution to moving traffic. It does not serve the city well. Better use of the 4 avenues would solve many of these issues.  By the way, the properties in Tuam Street have just dropped in value ( particularly those on the south side, that is the side that will be most affected by the two lanes of traffic ie it is harder to park and this side of the street will suffer more “value loss” than the north side).  The properties in Lichfield street have just risen in value.  Guess which is the better buy???

From my point of view it traps the lower High Street block, one of the last heritage block left in the city, between 3 one way streets. Not really an enviable situation.

There was also an excellent article by John McCrone the Christchurch Press 2.11.13.  Titled “Legal Challenges Expose Hasty Process.”   http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/9354331/Legal-challenges-expose-hasty-process

He discusses the hasty decisions made by the government, re the rubber stamping of city boundary changes, the quake Outcasts decision/red zoning decision and the Phillipstown School case.

Meaty issues, that require a stong cup of tea and a few re reads.

McCrone discusses the red zoning of the residential areas. I note that the bullying done by Cera to force us to accept the red zone offers is started to be discussed openly.  I guess that progress.  (I am still very cross about being bullied into having to sell our red zone land in river road, the threats, bullying and constant CERA phone calls was a disgrace.)

By the way Arrow and Southern Response are using the same tactics, but that is the subject for another day.

I also notice that Anna Crighton says “It was absolute vandalism what happened”,  referring to the demolition of the heritage buildings.  She is referring to the 10 day make safe notices that we all received.  The dreaded Section 38’s.  We were exceptionally lucky that we had already engaged an Engineer prior to the earthquakes, we had building consent and had already, prior to the earthquakes, began the strengthening work that our building required.  Most building owner did not have a hope of finding an Engineer in 10 days and as they were not property developers or have any skills in project management they were quickly bullied by CERA into allowing the demolition of their buildings.  (In some cases without the courtesy of even a phone call or the chance of being inspected by either the owners Insurance company or an independent Engineer.)

We managed to get the correct paper work in place in more or less the time allowed and that was no mean feat.

I am starting to realise that by doing what we did we very likely saved the entire Duncans Block.  My logic being: that CERA could not pull one down with out pulling all 16 down as we have an interconnected universal I beam.  That must have been very galling for CERA.

I also had a laugh at Gough’s comment in this article:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/9354289/City-built-for-love-not-money

“Investor-turned-developer Antony Gough said his Terrace precinct underway on Oxford Tce was costing him $5 million more to build than it would be worth complete.

“None of the projects stack up financially. That’s why we don’t see developers rushing into Christchurch – it’s only slightly nutty passionate Christchurch people doing it.”

Gough said he would be better off financially building in Tauranga or Auckland, but was a long-term investor in the city.”

I think he is correct, we must be slightly nutty.  For us the issue is that the cost of our repairs will be less than building a new building.  Our estimate for a new building our size is approximately $2.1 million, given the cost of foundations and builders etc.  The cost of repair will be less than $700.000  – give or take an arm and a leg.

I received another missive from the CCDU a few days ago.  A letter to inform me that 3 buildings in the South Frame have had their designations removed.  Not us of course. We have only 1368 more days to wait before they confirm or deny that we are going to be acquired.

What was interesting, was the list that accompanied this letter. It shows a list of approximately 200 other building owners in the South Frame in the same limbo land that we are in. (Some of these building owners own multiple sites, some are owned by the crown already so this is a rough tally up.)

Great PR is it not?  200 + other “pissed off” building owners in this frame alone! gee that is going to speed up the rebuild is it not. They need to make some decisions soon. There are very few building owners who have taken the gamble that we have taken and begun repairs prior to confirmation of acquisition being given.  Based on the 1368 more days to go before the designations are lifted I wonder if any action will occur until the situation is clarified. I suspect not. So where is the OVERDUE Innovation Precinct plan???? I am waiting……….

On a more practical note:  We now have an up and running upstairs toilet block. This required a new water cylinder( racked), toilet (cracked) and the replacement of some floor tiles- the tiles no longer match, but I guess we will call that trendy.  A sort of Mondrian look, though I must confess not as attractive as his works!

We also have a new problem, The new fencing installed by the CCC and authorised by CERA  is giving every tagger in the city “a ladder to our roof area”, as well as the full length of rooftops across the Duncans buildings. We have to get the paint out and try to clean the mess up. After a number of phone calls I get to CERA, the person in charge of our block.  I requested that CERA move the fencing slightly to make it more difficult to access the back of our building.  I am not holding much hope out here for a solution.  They seemed singularly disinterested, though they said they would look at the situation. The CERA man I spoke to said he would also “ask security to keep an eye out”.  yeah, the same sort of “eye out” they gave when the Billens building burnt down.

I suspect that as usual we will need to scrounge, beg, borrow or steal a roll of barbed wire.  (Offers gratefully accepted!)

I did offer to put up an electric fence….”We are not amused.”

Leaving this block in the condition it is in is criminal.  They just don’t get it do they?
One of the last heritage blocks left in the city, demolition by neglect. I throw my hands in the air in true European fashion and state “they are mad!”

We are also starting on the gib plastering next week. The stair walls are in danger of being gibbed as well!  No sign of the dreaded “Detailed Engineering Evaluation”, Producer Statement  and amended building consent. The less said about that the better. I guess I should hassle the poor Engineer again.

Oh my gosh, progress, our next door neighbour at 129 High Street,  has a contractor searching for steel beams in the concrete columns. (To get an idea of the strengthening work needed). The rule is: “if you can fly a canary between the reinforcing it does not have enough.” Very scientific I know!. That is the first action that has been taken in that building for 3 years.

Another day in the life of a slightly nutty building owner in Christchurch.

CCDU Design retains one way streets…..

The “New” transport plan: Link here: http://ccdu.govt.nz/our-progress/announcements/draft-transport-plan-open-for-public-consultation-15-november-2012 for the city has kept the one street system.  Their logic defies belief.  Internationally one way streets are a dead duck.  Most cities in the world, Including Dunedin and Auckland  are converting their one way streets back to 2 way.  They are race tracks through central city areas, “that result in diminished livability and population,  struggling businesses, unattractiveness, vacant land and buildings, lower property values and lower city rate revenues.”  Jill Bradley, Submission Christchurch Transport Plan 2013. CCDU+CERA+Transport+2+Way+better+than+one.pdf

This is the most compelling readable summary that I have seen of the futility of retaining the one way street system.  A failed 1960-1970 experiment.

You would think that the CCDU would have read the literature and looked at the evidence in front of them.  The degradation of Lichfield St, St Asaph streets, Barbadoes St…  etc was obvious to all.  The property values were low, the buildings derelict.

We fought the CCC 10 years ago when they wanted to convert Tuam Street to one way,  now the CCDU want to reinvent the wheel.  Will they never learn.???

And you wonder why Christchurch people are so frustrated?  Stupidity is alive and well here.

Ps Dunedin has just announced that they are converting their one way systems back to 2 way. Link Here: http://www.dunedin.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/291930/WH_Final-Posters-Compressed-2.pdf

A great looking plan to revitalise the CBD.  A pity that the CCDU has not listened to international experts.

A plan done on the cheap again??

The High Street Heritage precinct will be trapped between 3 one way streets/racetracks. Not a happy scenario.

Interesting to note that the CCC thinks that by landscaping these streets, and slowing the traffic down they might mitigate the worst of the effects.  This is a cop-out. It does not and will not solve the problem.  Unfortunately the CCDU and the CCC are totally dysfunctional as a working unit.

One way streets are a failed 1960’s experiment.  They should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

ho humm, how do you fight such stupidity???