Considered almost-dead by many, the heart of quake-damaged Christchurch has had defibrillator paddles attached to the City Mall ( Cashel St) to ReStart its heart. These paddles are in the form of brightly coloured, used shipping containers in which some of our Christchurch retail hero’s are breathing life back into the inner city – despite being on the border of the red zone where demolition is still underway after the February 2011 quake.
Locals will love to see Colin Johnson, with apron, back behind the counter at his grocery store again – continuing a family tradition of supplying Cantabrians and visitors alike with goodies from around the world. And, in this city of book-lovers, it will be wonderful to have Scorpio back in our heart (the dogs Coco and Patch will stay at the new Riccarton Rd shop)
I was fortunate to be shown around the new shopping precinct by Anton Tritt the project architect, who incidentally, like me is another succesful ex-pupil of Linwood College.
We met at the Bridge of Remembrance and with a hard-hat and high-visibility vest on; I’m signed into the Oxford Terrace end of Cashel /City Mall to look at this temporary shopping area which is using the containers (metal sides removed and large sheets of glass installed for shop fronts) as ‘instant’ temporary, shops, filling spaces left by demolished buildings.
It was a hive of activity, some 150 workers are busy with welding, painting, planting gardens, and delivering goods for the shops.
Two groups of shops cluster around a café, perfect for us coffee lovers, and one, Hummingbird Café has proudly installed a piece of sculpture in the front of its new two-storied cafe. Bizarrely, Ballantyne’s looks just the same on the Colombo Street corner, but I believe it too has had a refit, and at the western end of the shop, is their “Contemporary Lounge’ has a row of containers, each shop featuring a prestigious fashion label.
This is a different Cashel Street yet it is also the same. The tram lines are still there – waiting for our trams to return; the mature trees are still growing, the seating still waiting for workers to return to the city and sit in the sun while having their lunch, and the Bridge of Remembrance still spans the Avon River. There are also a few older buildings there to anchor the new. It’s also different: the primary colours of the new shops are signs of a new, different, and revitalised Christchurch – a heart that’s beating again. It wont be up to full strength for a while, but our city is on the mend. These retailers deserve our support – they are just some of our inner-city heroes.