Today, for the first time in eight months, I walked around the Cashel Mall, in the centre of Christchurch’s business district. Members of the public have not been allowed in this area since the earthquake in February. Four people died in the Mall area as a result of the earthquake.
It is a scene that you struggle to comprehend, so changed is the landscape. Many buildings have been demolished, making it difficult to establish the landmarks that have been so familiar. Other buildings are in the state of deconstruction.
Shoppers have been forced to use suburban malls since February. Even before this time, the central shopping area of Christchurch was struggling against this strong competition. In an initiative to draw shoppers back into the city, the “Restart the Heart” Trust was given $3.36 million to kickstart the project. It is a small but significant start in the re-build of central Christchurch.
In a novel approach, 27 shops and cafes have been constructed in an area vacated by demolished buildings, using brightly decorated shipping containers. It is a temporary measure which may last up to a year, until construction of permanent buildings begins. Construction workers have worked 24/7 in the last week, putting the finishing touches on the containers and surrounding landscaping, so that the Mall could be open for Cup Week (horse racing carnival).
It is a pleasant place to be, it looks resplendent on a sunny day. If you gaze around, though, you can see many large buildings close by in various stages of deconstruction. In the background (photo above) is the Lichfield Street Car Park building. I’m not sure of its fate, however is not currently in use. (Update: awaiting engineers’ assessment following further damage in June earthquake.)
Looking over to the Whitcoulls side of the Mall
Find some time lapse photography, showing the final week of construction, right up until the first visitors arrive on opening day here.
For an update on the Cathedral and surrounding buildings in November 2011, click here.