Not ‘a popularity contest’: Council considers opinions on proposal to sell town center site to Wilson Parking

The site that could be sold to Wilson Parking is in the foreground, with the new Court Theater under construction in the background.

ALDEN WILLIAMS / Stuff

The site that could be sold to Wilson Parking is in the foreground, with the new Court Theater under construction in the background.

A proposal by Christchurch City Council to sell prime central land to Wilson Parking to build and operate a car park has been described as ‘lazy, unimaginative and short-sighted’.

But councilors were told the existence of the new Court Theater would be in jeopardy without a car park next to it.

Christchurch City Council is considering selling land to Wilson Parking to build a car park nestled between Isaac Theater Royal and a new Court Theater being built in the performing arts district.

A car park building had been mooted for the precinct for many years, but the plan only met with strong public opposition when council consulted on selling the land to Wilson Parking.

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Some 219 of 267 public submissions opposed the idea, with some citing concerns about climate change while others were critical of Wilson Parking.

At a council meeting on Thursday, Little Andromeda manager Michael Bell said the land had been given to the council for performing arts purposes and parking was not a good use of the property. ground.

“Returning it to Wilson is the laziest, least imaginative, and least insightful way to approach one of Ōtautahi’s most prized real estate assets.” You will never get it back if you do.

He wanted the council to turn it into an outdoor performance space.

But Court Theater administrator Steve Wakefield said the car park building was absolutely vital to the Court Theatre’s continued sustainability.

The new Court Theater is part of plans for the performing arts district in central Christchurch.

Provided

The new Court Theater is part of plans for the performing arts district in central Christchurch.

Nearby parking was a requirement for the Court Theater to return to the city, and it was the number one priority for many of its patrons, he said.

Virtually none of its patrons traveled to the theater by bicycle or public transport and such transport should not be promoted at risk to the viability of the Court Theatre, Wakefield said.

“It shouldn’t be about social engineering and trying to kill cars in the name of climate change.”

Wakefield said the health and sustainability of the whole area depended on the parking lot building.

“This process shouldn’t be a popularity contest for Wilson.”

Keith Beal​ of Ōtākaro, who developed the nearby Te Pae convention center, said there was a need to supplement downtown facilities with nearby car parks.

However, other authors had different views.

Christchurch resident Nathaniel Herz-Edinger said a big part of the business case for the Court Theater was to bring people to the city and add vibrancy.

A map of the performing arts precinct shows the site of the new Court Theatre, planned parking and the empty site.

Provided

A map of the performing arts precinct shows the site of the new Court Theatre, planned parking and the empty site.

He wondered where the dynamism would come from if people walked in, parked a few feet away, went to the theater and left.

“When we build a park right next to the Court Theatre, we don’t encourage people to explore the city.”

He said the people using the parking lot would be in their 60s and in 10 to 20 years no one would be using the parking lot.

The Catholic Diocese of Christchurch, which owns nearby land and plans to build a 600-space car park, was also against the building.

Chapman Tripp’s partner Jo Appleyard, who is also a member of the cathedral’s governing council, said parking in the arts district was inappropriate and incompatible with the district’s intended purpose.

The diocese also claimed the sale process was flawed because the size and scale of the proposed car park had not been made public.

Council did not make a decision on Thursday, and instead Mayor Lianne Dalziel adjourned the meeting until Tuesday to give staff time to answer a number of questions from councilors before making a decision.

Some councilors wanted to know what existing parking supply was already in the area and what the implications would be if the council did not decide to sell the land.

Cr Yani Johanson said he couldn’t see any assessment in the staff report if Wilson Parking was a good company.