Could the old Christchurch railway station be available for development? (updated)

Posted on July 29, 2011 by

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Here is some interesting news. Science Alive, the interactive childrens science centre located in the old railway station building on Moorhouse Ave, is considering moving into a new IT hub closer into the city centre. What is so interesting about that? Well, to fund the move the organisation would sell its existing site, the old railway station building. Now, I am not entirely sure exactly how the ownership of the old station building and surrounding land is sorted, but it begs the question of whether this might provide an opportunity to create a state of the art multi-modal transport hub on the edge of the CBD.

The building was built specifically for rail transport purposes and would easily be suitable for future transport uses, including that rail system everyone keeps talking about. With new railway platforms, bus facilities etc it could be one of the key hubs in a new transport system for Christchurch. There is plenty of land around the building that, if bought up by the Council, allows plenty of room to develop  a facility of world-class quality.  The building itself appears to have weathered the earthquakes well, although the external brick work has been damaged and there is bound to be other superficial damage too.

Am I advocating for the central transport interchange to be located on Moorhouse Ave? Not exactly, as I think we must be very careful about where we locate any central city public transport hub. Although plenty of people have advocated moving buses out of the CBD to one or more terminals on the edge, I don’t think it is an ideal answer and would make our public transport system disconnected and inefficient. In anycase, Moorhouse Ave to me simply isn’t central enough, Christchurch needs a transport interchange in the city centre. However, if we eventually establish rail services then we could run key bus services (and perhaps an extended tram?) between a central interchange and a Moorhouse transport hub. I am really just shooting out ideas, but I think now is a great time to have this argument if we have an opportunity to decide what to do with this building. For me, it depends on whether rail (in any form) is to play a major part in the future Christchurch transport system. I believe it will, so this is an opportunity I would love to see debated and explored (and I now see on the dreaded stuff comments section of the article, it already is!).

Apologies for the lack of posting over the last 10 days, but I am still overseas and don’t have much time to do so. I have gathered a bit of material for a post on ideas from Melbourne which I will put together when I get back next week.

**Edit**

One minute you hear one thing, the next it is another!

Christchurch’s old railway station in Moorhouse Ave could be demolished.

There are fears the foundations may be damaged, but owners and tenants are waiting for a structural engineer’s report. Grand Ltd owns about 11,000 square metres of the former train station, while Science Alive! owns 6000sqm.

Grand Limited director Lisa Abbott, who owns the Hoyts side, would prefer a rebuild rather than repairs.

“We don’t know the damage yet. I would like to rebuild because new is better,” she said.

“The floor is cracked. It doesn’t look like a lot of damage but being a parent with kids, I am thinking of safety first.

“I feel if the floor is compromised, it could compromise the whole building, but I am not an engineer and I’m waiting for the engineering report.”

Hoyts general manager Brian Eldridge said: “We would like to see the cinema complex remain on that site, whether we repair or rebuild.”

Science Alive! chief executive Neville Petrie said some of the floors in the Hoyts area were “bowed”.

Petrie was waiting on an engineering report on their area.

A former tenant in the Science Alive! section does not plan to return. Aoraki Polytechnic administrator Trish Aitken said the polytechnic had facilities in Hornby, St Albans, Sydenham and Rangiora.

“We don’t think we want to go back. We need to get running again and I am not sure they will be able to make decisions very quickly,” she said.

I would hate to lose this building as it is really iconic. However, you never know these days, you hear all sorts of crap in the media that constantly contradicts itself! The article at least provides certainty over who owns what. Probably worth remembering that the Hoyts part of the building was added on after it ceased being used as a station and that may well be where the foundation damage lies (like most news in this town these days it is confusing and lacking detail while making a sweeping claim!). Personally, I would like to see the cinema moved from there and the railway station returned to its rightful place, even if it is just the long-distance trains for now. Why they even moved it from there, I will never know. Yes, the remaining passenger rail operations were too small for the facility but the building and old yards could still have been redeveloped for other uses while maintaining a more modest rail function (see Dunedin’s station or even Wellington’s as examples).

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