Christchurch City Council wants to work with the owners of privately-owned vacant sites in the city centre on finding better short and long-term uses for their land.
“The regeneration of the Central City has gained strong momentum over the past five years with a steady stream of new attractions, commercial development and homes drawing in visitors and new residents. However, we still have a lot of vacant land in our city centre,’’ says Carolyn Ingles, Head of Urban Regeneration, Design and Heritage.
“While some of the vacant land is committed for development, much of the remainder is being held to satisfy future demands. So, while vacant sites present great opportunities, until they are developed, poorly kept sites can create negative impressions that influence how visitors talk about the city to others.
“We want to encourage and support the owners of vacant sites to proceed with their permanent redevelopment. When owners are ready to develop, a range of support services will be there to inform designs, help streamline consents and support construction.
“But, where development is not currently feasible, then we would like owners to look at how their site’s appearance could be improved.
“In many cases simple grassing over the sites has made a dramatic improvement, and in busy commercial and pedestrian areas there are opportunities to encourage temporary uses that add to the city experience,’’ Ms Ingles says.
“For example, in the East Frame we have seen Gap Filler use vacant sites to create a pump track for biking, scootering or skateboarding. We would love to see others exploring options for how they could use their vacant land in a way that makes a positive contribution to the city’s appeal and vitality for residents, workers and visitors.’’
About 19 per cent of central city land within the four avenues – about 68.6 hectares – was vacant at the start of this year.
Some of that vacant land is being used as temporary carparks or greenspace but a significant proportion of it – about 20 hectares – is sitting unused.
“There are many reasons why sites sit vacant,’’ says Ms Ingles. “A significant factor in Christchurch is that pre-earthquake demand for commercial space has been satisfied by larger, more efficient buildings, changing business practices, and businesses relocating to other parts of the city.
“As a Council we cannot force owners of vacant sites to develop them. However, working in partnership with business, communities and across public agencies, the goal is to encourage and support site owners to improve the central city experience that, in turn, attracts more people more often improving its investment potential.
“If a vacant site is full of weeds and litter, spilling gravel into the street or undermines perceptions of safety – especially after dark – it can be off-putting for people who are potentially looking to buy a home or set up a business in the area,’’ Ms Ingles says.
A report outlining the Council’s proposed approach will be presented to the Urban Development and Transport Committee for endorsement at its meeting on 9 December.