Breathing new life into The Tannery
By Davina Richards
Alasdair Cassels is a name synonymous with Woolston and the renowned developer has got a lot more than beer brewing on his Garlands Road site.
The brick by brick transformation of the historic Tannery site, bought in 1994 by the owner, property developer and founder of Cassels and Sons Brewing Company, Alasdair Cassels, is becoming a top attraction since the first part of the Victorian arcade was opened in March.
Cassels has invested some $15 million on the shopping, restaurant and entertainment complex which is currently home to Toi Toi, The Bikery, The Flock, Smiths Bookshop, Dead Set Clothing and Gustav’s Kitchen and Wine Bar to name a few. And let’s not forget our continued favourite and the first establishment on the site four months after the February earthquake, The Brewery, which offers craft beers, sensational wood fire pizzas and live music.
With as many as 70 tenants due to find solace under its imported Israeli roof in the beautiful 1875 enclosure by the time the project is completed, The Tannery is likely to become one of Christchurch’s most charming and attractive additions to the city.
Alasdair is a man with great vigour for preserving the property which remains a chapter of history.
So when the industrial buildings on the banks of the Heathcote River on a 1.8 hectare site became available, he didn’t hesitate to lock it in.
The historic nature of the site has been the central inspiration for Alasdair; that and the fact that he loves Christchurch and wants to give something back to Cantabrians who have lost so much since the earthquake.
“I was part of a big family, I think that has helped me understand the value of family and community,” Alasdair says.
“Being able to restore the buildings and maintain the historic facades and truss work is a big bonus. Being able to incorporate an interior based on a 120 year old Victorian shopping arcade, sourcing materials and designing the various elements has been interesting.
“I wanted to create an environment where customers could escape from the last hundred years and I believe that we have achieved this,” he says.
Alasdair, who has always liked to work for himself, says he’s lucky enough not to make too many mistakes and not being afraid to think outside the box.
“I guess with every investment there is a risk and particularly so with property development. When I looked at the Tannery project at its inception there was a need, even before the earthquake, for such a development on this side of the city. Being able to develop for investment rather than sale also reduces risk.”