Christchurch city is unique in that the CBD was designed around Hagley Park. ‘The Avenues’, which border the park, provide the boundary from which suburbia spans and from within the city thrives.
Apartment-style living has long been a desirable way of life in Christchurch, dating back to at least the late 1800s.
‘Blackheath Place’ was one of the city’s very first apartment-style complexes. In 1876, London bricklayer Frank Hathway Hitchings purchased a parcel of land on Durham Street and built a small brick house for his young family, and in the backyard an observatory.
Dubbing his empire ‘Blackheath Place’, Frank kept adding buildings, and when his sons came of age, they did too, with the two different roof levels throughout the site being the clear distinction between the two building eras.
In total, 10 tenant houses were built and it’s said that all those who lived there were quite content with their small commune.
A simple living style
Today, apartment-style living can be a really simple, refreshing way to live and this appeals to a lot of people, from first home buyers to professionals working in the city, retirees, property investors, even people from the country that want a place to stay when they’re in town.
“You are generally limited for space, so you tend to hold on to the stuff you need and a few bits that make you feel great, which is a really refreshing concept, Laird Management project director, Steven Laird says.
Because the central city is defined by boundaries, apartment-style living is an appealing option, but we need to get it right, Steven says, something that hasn’t been considered as much a priority as it should be, particularly following the earthquakes.
“The surrounding areas such as Riccarton, St Albans and Edgeware have been cut up and developed for a long time. This has left these areas with a load of buildings with maintenance concerns that will be around for decades.
“From my experience these buildings have been damaged by earthquakes and then were cash settled by insurance companies in the early days of the respective repair programmes.
“We have seen too many inadequate repairs to these buildings – cosmetically they probably look fine, but how are they going to look in five more years?
“I think we have created a really big problem with how these buildings have been repaired and I can see a lot of cost for body corporates and owners down the track if these repairs aren’t right.
“Similarly, developments with as many units on a tiny site, skimping on the design and living aspects that make life better for living in the city, are actually a disservice to the city.”
Good design a critical element
The best way to get people moving around the streets is by having people living in the city and to do this people need to feel good at home.
This is where great design, well thought out development and space is critical – these buildings and spaces need to be desirable buildings for a long time .
At the moment, the biggest challenges to overcome are the land any building sits on and the increasing cost of health and safety requirements.
“These are nothing new and they aren’t going away, so it’s something that should be embraced and looked at in more detail during design.
“It’s important to do your homework and seek advice where you need it; dealing with body corporates, or other owners in a complex can have their challenges, but just like anything it comes down to getting the right advice from the right people.
“Get involved and love your investment, be on the committee, challenge the body corporate and insist on maintenance schedules and programmes to ensure your investment or home is protected.”
As the city recovers, so will apartment values
In general, apartments hold their value as much as housing, and when the city is built up prices will increase, especially in a city with defined boundaries, but this does come back to the building, location and what’s out the window.
There’s no doubt about it; “This little city is going to be a great place to be,” Steven says.