Christchurch mayor seeks advice on rebuilding quake-damaged Dux de Lux building

Christchurch mayor Phil Mauger has called for advice on options for the city council to rebuild an earthquake-damaged heritage building owned by the cash-strapped Arts Centre trust.

Mauger submitted a set of recommendations as part of his monthly report, which included fast-tracking the rebuild of the former student union building in the central city as part of the council’s long term plan (LTP).

The category two heritage building on Hereford Street was previously occupied by the popular garden bar and restaurant Dux de Lux.

The spot was a fixture of the arts centre for decades, but had been derelict after sustaining significant damage during the devastating Canterbury earthquakes.

Councillors voted on a recommendation for the council’s chief executive to report back on possible restoration options, to cap a gruelling council meeting on Wednesday.

“I think everyone just wants to get it fixed or repaired one way or another,” Mauger said.

The decision comes amid growing angst and uncertainty around the future of the centre, leading the Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora trust to implore the city council for $1.8 million annually for its survival.

A 'Save the Arts Centre' banner hangs at the site of the original Dux de Lux building in central Christchurch

The trust owns New Zealand’s largest collection of heritage buildings, in central Christchurch, on behalf of the city’s residents and leases them to various creative and commercial tenants to foster the arts and culture.

It had been in confidential talks with hospitality operators since last year about taking over the original Hereford Street building.

This followed years of exclusive talks with the Redux group and Dux founder Richard Sinke which ultimately proved fruitless.

Heathcote ward councillor Sara Templeton probed staff about ongoing funding negotiations for restoration already occurring behind the scenes during the agenda item.

Mauger felt it was best to simply press on.

“If this is the catalyst that gets some action going, this is good,” he said.

The original Dux de Lux building in central Christchurch was badly damaged in the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes

The Arts Centre received an insurance payout of $168m in 2012, for a total restoration but rebuild costs are now expected to cost $290m.

Advice being sought includes restoration of the Student Union building, in a similar model to the Old Municipal Chambers, by using existing heritage funds to support an agreed rebuild.

The council leasing or purchasing the site was mooted as an alternative option.

In the 2021-2031 LTP, the council provided a $5.5m capital restoration grant for the first three years to the trust to help with restoration of its earthquake-damaged buildings.

The original Dux de Lux building

The Observatory Tower in the central city, which was restored last year, was the focus of this allocation of funding.

During these deliberations, the trust had informed council of shrinking its annual deficit to $500,000 by 2023-24.

This prognosis, however, had not transpired as the Arts Centre told council it projected deficits in the order of $1.8m per year from 2024 onwards.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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