Before the 2010 earthquakes, Cathedral Square was the heart of Christchurch.
Now, an ambitious campaign is raising funds to get the heart beating again and make the Square a buzzing hub.
Christchurch businessman Darin Rainbird will launch a PledgeMe campaign to support his plan to convert the restored 140-year-old former Chief Post Office in Cathedral Square into 'The Grand'. He hoped it would be a world-class food and entertainment destination, complete with an artisan French bakery, visitor information centre, and one of New Zealand's largest outdoor plazas.
Rainbird said that the underlying idea was to create a space where people can meet, greet, socialise, play, and enjoy.
Many new developments have drawn people back to the CBD, but there's little to connect them, said Rainbird.
Located in the centre of the CBD, The Grand could bring together Regent Street Precinct, The Terrace, The Crossing and the nearly completed Cathedral, he added.
The Chief Post Office building is a rare surviving piece of heritage architecture remaining in Christchurch. Designed by William Henry Clayton in the 19th-century Italianate style, it features a central clock tower similar to Big Ben. The bell has recently been repaired and returned to the tower.
Rainbird said the building's survival is attributed to Gordon Chamberlain, its owner, who had already reinforced it before the earthquakes.
The top floor of The Grand would focus on local produce, with a wine tasting experience so that customers could buy wine along with local cheese and meat. There will be a pastry bakery school as well.
An entertainment-focused restaurant will feature everything from live music to comedy, through to opera and private functions.
All areas of art will be showcased throughout the venues, with a dedicated gallery on the top floor as well.
Rainbird said a key part of the project had been the support from the community. The space would be for Canterbury, so he wanted it to be owned by the people of Canterbury. The crowdfunding option gave people the opportunity to participate.
The contractors and suppliers of the project were also approached for contribution.
It's been an exhausting but exciting development for Rainbird and his team, with Covid delaying progress, he said.
He hoped The Grand would be ready to be opened in February 2022.