So, the Crown Plaza Hotel, on the corner of Kilmore, Durham and Victoria Streets, is to be demolished due to earthquake damage. Some people are lamenting the loss of this building but I have to admit that since it was damaged in the February earthquake I have been hoping that demolition would happen.
Before the hotel was built (as the Parkroyal) in the late 1980’s Victoria Street ran through the site of the Crown Plaza to end at the current intersection of Colombo and Armagh Streets. For some reason, when they decided to fully pedestrianize the sections of Victoria Street and Oxford Street that ran through the square, the powers that be thought it would be a great idea to block the redeveloped square from the rest of Victoria Street by building a great big hotel. To me, Victoria Square, great as it is, has always felt slightly strange at the Crown Plaza end, like it doesn’t really have the ending it deserves.
The article that appeared on stuff today indicated that the owners of the Crown Plaza do not intend to rebuild the hotel, although they apparently remain committed to the city. In my opinion, the hotel should never have been built there at all. It casts a shadow over one of the best urban spaces in the country and cuts off what could have been a great pedestrian link between two different and popular precincts of the Central City. Now is the perfect chance to finish Victoria Square the way it should have been, and provide a high quality pedestrian link between Colombo and Victoria Street. I am sure the Christchurch City Council are eyeing this site up. It fits in with the general direction of the draft Central City Plan, and they will likely never get another opportunity like this again. This is a chance to fix the colossal mistake that was building this hotel in the first place.
I do have to wonder if something is afoot here, they claim new building codes make the cost of rebuilding the hotel prohibitive but it does seem to kind of suit everyone if the hotel has issues and the Council has an eye to developing the site as a Victoria Square extension. In anycase, my hope is that the right decision is made and the Crown Plaza site is turned into pedestrian space. I wouldn’t want to bet on it, but I will say ‘watch this space’ on this one.
Oh, and I promise to have the Melbourne post up this weekend! Promise.