In the heart of Christchurch, you’ll find residents passionate about the attractions of central city living.

There’s the young art director who says that living centrally gives her more time to do the things she loves. “It is a quick commute to work and I have a whole city full of green spaces and entertainment to enjoy, rather than a backyard to look after at the weekends.

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“When I lived in the suburbs I tended to stick to my immediate area, but now I feel like I take advantage of everything that is great about Christchurch – our city, beaches and the hills.”

Then there’s a recently retired school teacher who likes the buzz of the central city and the close proximity of eateries and shops.

He enjoys his active lifestyle, cycling to the gym and walking with friends around the CBD, keeping track of progress with key projects and watching the city re-emerge.

In the suburbs, he used to drive his car to a supermarket once a week and fill the boot with groceries. “Now I grab a bag or two of groceries on my walk most days. I’m fitter than I’ve been in a long time.”

The new promenade along the river, the Botanic Gardens, and Rauora Park are all his “backyard”.

Ōtākaro General Manager Property and Operations, Keith Beal says these two people reflect the two strongest markets for inner-city housing: single people or young couples without children and, to a lesser extent, older but still active people looking to downsize.

A recent survey of 700 locals showed Christchurch doesn’t have a strong urban metropolitan lifestyle culture, with less than one-third even considering owning or renting a centrally-located property in the next five years.

“While CBD living isn’t for everyone, it’s clear from the research that many survey participants were thinking about it from a suburban living mindset,” says Keith. “For example, there were concerns about car parking, security, and privacy which aren’t significant issues for most people currently living there.

“But perception is reality, so those reservations need to be addressed in the home designs. With security, it can be as simple as the location of the front entrance or internal garage access for those homes with garages.” Keith says more locals embracing innercity living is a key to creating a more vibrant city centre.

“We need to be realistic about the rate at which that will occur. CBD living is largely about convenience and in Christchurch, we don’t have inconveniently long commuting times, and of course, many jobs aren’t actually in the central city. For others, it’s just a bit too soon. They say they’re more likely to consider living centrally when the CBD regeneration is more complete.”

For those who are interested, Keith says plenty of choices are emerging. “In One Central, Fletcher Living has options from studio apartments to large townhouses, while there are other mixed-use developments that include some housing, and innovative proposals like Madras Square where residents could share facilities like laundries and workshops that they don’t need to own outright. That choice – and competitive pricing – is healthy.

“I think we also need to help locals who are potential inner-city residents understand and appreciate the lifestyle on offer. Many suburban dwellers I talk to ask: ‘Why would I want to live in the city?’ when those who already live here ask: ‘Why wouldn’t you?!’”  

Liam Stretch