New Regent Street, Christchurch CBD. © christchurchnz.com

Urban explorer: Christchurch CBD


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If you’re visiting Christchurch and discovering the shiny new streets of the central business district, you won’t be alone. Even the city’s longest-term residents are just finding their way in the ever-changing post-quake city. 

This year, the city crossed an invisible line in the rebuild progress. I remember it clearly – one day rounding the corner of High Street onto Cashel Mall and having the strange feeling that I was in a modern city rather than a dusty disaster zone. Here are three new places to explore in the city centre.

City Mall

City Mall is the three blocks of pedestrian mall that sit between the Bridge of Remembrance and the angled High Street.

The original mall was devastated by the quakes. Facades collapsed and several people died, despite the heroic efforts of ordinary Cantabrians who spend hours digging through rubble to rescue their fellow citizens. City Mall rose as the first part of the city to re-open post-quake with a collection of converted containers known as the Re:START mall. Originally intended to be there for six months, the colourful containers provided a central city shopping destination for six years, before moving out to make way for permanent developments. 

The new buildings have followed the necessities of the city blueprint, which required large developments so that laneways and courtyard spaces could be incorporated into the designs.

The BNZ Centre at 101 Cashel has the best example, with brightly coloured office balconies looking over a sunny square full of beanbags and eateries. This is also home to one of the city’s most beloved retailers, Scorpio Books.

The Crossing at the corner of High Street opened with Christchurch’s first H&M department store. It also has open internal spaces, a parking garage and even a supermarket. 

The Terrace

The City Mall reaches the Avon River at Oxford Terrace. Pre-quake, this was home to “The Strip," a burgeoning collection of bars and restaurants where the after-work crowd carried on until late in the night.

Christchurch personality, property developer and snappy dresser, Anthony Gogh, took on the rebuild and has opened a hospitality and office complex called The Terrace with a total of 17 bars and restaurants open or planning to open.

The city’s favourite hospitality operators have developed concepts for this new precinct, which, true to the new Christchurch urban design aesthetic, is crisscrossed with laneways and balconies. The area also spills into a new development designed for better access to the city’s iconic river. 

Avon River in the CBD looking spectacular ☀️☀️

A post shared by ANZ Centre (@anzcentrechch) on Oct 20, 2016 at 5:10pm PDT

Arts Centre 

This collection of 19th century Gothic Revival buildings were once the home of the University of Canterbury.

So nice to be back in my old hometown for a bit. #Christchurch #NewZealand

A post shared by Cam Spark (@thatflyingspark) on Nov 27, 2017 at 1:21am PST

A $290 million dollar restoration project (one of the world’s largest heritage projects) started after the earthquakes and about half of the centre has now re-opened with a collection of shops, eateries and galleries as well as the Rutherford’s Den interactive museum, where you can explore the discoveries made by Ernest Rutherford and his peers on this very site in the early 1900s. The Arts Centre also host regular events – from classical music in the great hall to outdoor cinema showings in the grassy quad. 

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