The Revival City: Christchurch’s transition from Garden City to Growth City

New Zealand’s second-largest city is now a bustling hub of creativity, innovation, and diversity. Our expert team examines what the future looks like for Christchurch in a growth phase.

August 24, 2022

Today, the streets of Christchurch are buzzing. The city it is now is very different from that of five years ago – or even two. Undeniably, one of the triumphs of the rebuild is its revitalisation. New Zealand’s second largest city is now a bustling hub of creativity, innovation, and diversity.

“Christchurch has really found itself again after the challenges of the earthquakes,” says Hamish Stallworthy, Head of JLL Christchurch. While the last couple of years have certainly not been without challenges, there’s a notable spirit of resilience and positivity in the air. “Cantabrians are a resilient bunch and the general attitude is to keep calm and carry on.”

From Garden City to Growth City

Historically and affectionately referred to as New Zealand’s ‘Garden City’, without noticing, there’s been a shift. While still embracing its roots through large open spaces, community gardens and sustainable planting, Christchurch is keeping up with the modern world – and leading the way at a local level.

Despite the vast ongoing challenges of rebooting the Central Business District, positive and innovative urban solutions continue to foster Christchurch’s revival. There’s a renewed sense of energy that is informing and inspiring its regeneration. A cross-section of hospitality, culture, and boutique shopping—from Riverside Market to Cashel Street, to mixed-use development The Terrace—is embedded throughout the city. Best of all, people are getting out there and making the most of all it has to offer. 

“Post-earthquake, the strategic redevelopment of Christchurch continues to encourage outstanding developments,” says Stallworthy. Further highlights include The Crossing, an upmarket boutique retail complex and the new Te Pae Convention Centre in Cathedral Square, a state-of-the-art facility that’s anything but conventional.

A testament to its evolution, JLL’s Christchurch office continues to expand. Positioned in the hustle and bustle with an ever-growing team—15 in agency and nine in valuation advisory—the vibe feels inspired. “I believe our main point of difference is the collaborative team culture. We have specialist teams that excel in their sector, but there are a lot of cross-team work-ins and sharing of knowledge.” 

Backed by JLL’s strongest research team, expert market knowledge and creative solutions, it’s best-in-class. And like its progressive locale, technology is embedded in JLL Christchurch’s DNA. “We’re not afraid to embrace it and think outside the square to get results,” adds Stallworthy.

At a glance

Below, Stallworthy highlights current key observations in the Christchurch commercial property market.

The industrial market continues to go from strength to strength with new development land being snapped up and current stock vacancy extremely low. An emerging trend is the slowdown of new builds creating more pressure on the current stock.

 Office vacancy rates are at an all-time low with businesses struggling to find premises in the CBD. There are limited office developments on the horizon, which indicates there will be continued upward pressure on rentals. For CBD Christchurch we have seen an increase in demand for secondary properties as a consequence of the low vacancies currently experienced in prime properties.

While retail was heavily impacted by the pandemic it seems to be stabilising. CBD vacancy rates are very low and rental growth is expected post-Covid. 

Looking ahead

A future-focused city actively investing in manufacturing, technology and agriculture, it’s an exciting time to live, work and visit Christchurch. It’s better than ever, both socially and economically, with unity and collaboration across business and community at its heart.

As for what the next few years hold in store, Stallworthy predicts the population will continue growing. “The supply of housing at reasonably affordable levels is luring people back into the CBD and surrounds. The economy is on a relatively stable footing.” With housing affordability stimulating retail and hospitality activity, international and local companies naturally have their sights set on Christchurch too. The potential is clear, as seen in the growing sales team. 

“We’re concluding multiple signature deals in the Christchurch market alongside other leasing projects, like the leasing of Tower Junction under a master agency for Ngāi Tahu.” 

Karen Collis, JLL Retail Sales and Leasing Broker, has ensured the retail complex has remained full over the last few years, which is a significant success for JLL and further evidence of retailers’ confidence in the market.

The forecast for the future is bright: so much progress yet still so much untapped. What is certain? Christchurch is New Zealand’s city of tomorrow.

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