Thanks to $5.5m from the Christchurch City Council, a pair of historic buildings that were previously going to be left unrestored will now be transformed into a health technology centre.
The 11-year restoration of the Christchurch Arts Centre will come to a close this year, but three buildings will be mothballed due to a $62 million shortfall. Two engineering buildings on Worcester Boulevard will be temporarily strengthened, but left unrestored. The former Dux de Lux building will also remain unrestored.
The former Court Theatre building and the former Southern Ballet and Cloisters cinema building will become a health technology centre, with a modern sky bridge designed by Warren and Mahoney linking the two. The bridge will be submitted for resource consent soon. The fit out work was funded from the council’s long term plan approved last year.
Aldridge said they were looking for health technology companies to sign up as tenants for the new spaces. He said there was a gap in the market for office space in the sector.
“Health tech companies emerge from the universities and district health board’s innovation centres across the country and there is little else for them in New Zealand's infrastructure.
“They need a lot of money, so a lot of our research investment ends up going offshore. The more we can do to keep them in New Zealand the greater the benefit for the city.”
The new health buildings would also provide a revenue stream for the Arts Centre, which one year struggled with an operational deficit of $1.5m.
“We are in a very difficult position financially. We have had this massive restoration project but behind it is a small arts organisation trying to run these very expensive buildings. The financial position of the Arts Centre has always been precarious.”
Aldridge said that by the end of the year people would be able to walk across the Arts Centre site from east to west for the first time since the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes as building fences would come down.