Christchurch Rebuilding Plan: Shorter = Safer

Residents get their say beginning Aug. 16 on a $2 billion plan adopted by the City Council to rebuild the city's center following the February 2011 earthquake.

The downtown area of Christchurch, New Zealand's second largest city, was heavily damaged by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on Feb. 22, and many structures there are still in the process of demolition, the New Zealand Herald reports. Now, Mayor Bob Parker and the city council have adopted a $2 billion draft Central City Plan to reconstruct their downtown and want residents to comment beginning Aug. 16.

There will be no buildings taller than six or seven stories in the central city because residents say they don't want them, Parker said. Most of the 181 deaths in the earthquake occurred in tall buildings, and there will be a royal commission of inquiry into those building failures. The plan would keep a downtown area near the Avon River clear of buildings because it is prone to liquefaction in quakes.

Parker said the council received 106,000 ideas from the community and stakeholders during a Share an Idea phase, and those ideas "strongly influenced" projects included in the 154-page plan. "The draft Central City Plan details more than 70 projects to be implemented during the rebuilding phase, each designed to help rebuild the area within the four avenues and create a vibrant, prosperous area for residents and visitors to enjoy," he said. "The Central City will be a low-rise, resilient, safe and sustainable place. It will be easy to get around, with a business-friendly compact central area, an array of inviting spaces and plenty of activities. We propose to widen and celebrate the banks of the Avon River/Ōtakaro as Christchurch's new riverfront park; introduce a light rail system to initially connect the University of Canterbury and the Central City; build a new sports hub with an Olympic-size aquatic facility and indoor stadium; develop a new Central Library and a world-class convention centre; green Cathedral Square; and create a network of neighbourhood parks and gardens spread throughout the Central City."

The deadline for written comments on the plan is Sept. 16. Besides being available online, copies of it are available at libraries and recreation and sports centers, and a 12-page summary will be delivered to every household Aug. 20-21.

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