Late 19th century Victorian and early 20th century Edwardian buildings are at the heart of Christchurch’s High Street precinct. But preserving that history is another matter all together, and following the series of quakes that have shaken the city, it’s become even more potent. And in recognition of this, last week the High Street Precinct Group was formed. Comprised of a series of property owners, tenants, retailers, and residents, the group is united by a shared vision of strengthening the historic fabric of the city.
“People involved with the precinct recognise it as an area of special significance which faces particular issues after the earthquakes,” explains Laurie Rose, a Christchurch chartered accountant and property owner who has also taken the role of interim chair of the group.
High Street is the spine of the precinct, which covers the general area south from Bedford Row to St Asaph Street, from 225 High Street and south through SOL Square to the east side of Madras Street as well as incorporating the properties on the west side of Manchester Street and the Lichfield / Poplar Lanes.
Following the quakes, Rose says the precinct has retained much of its Victorian and Edwardian-era buildings, and while the greater Christchurch CBD is faced with its own rebuilding questions, the precinct is presented with a set of unique challenges.
“This area had developed a distinct boutique character with emphasis on top-end fashion, cultural interests and dining and entertainment that readily distinguished it from the rest of central Christchurch,” he says.
According to steering committee member Monica Beaumont, the group is determined to not just retain the nature of the area through the recovery process, but to also enhance it.
“Members have already identified it’s possible to retain many heritage buildings, and where that’s no longer possible we can endeavour to maintain at least the street facades.”
And retaining that heritage, says Beaumont, is something future Christchurch generations and visitors to the city will be thankful for.
“City Council studies and others as far back as 1997 show the High Street precinct to be of prime importance for people visiting the central city. The advent of the extended tramway places this area right on the tourist route,” she says.
“The mix of commercial, residential, retail, restaurants and more, together with the special architectural values of this precinct, make it an important part of the fabric of our city.”
The group is making inroads, having already entered discussions with CERA and the Christchurch Council.