Friday, August 12, 2011
Garden City to City in a Garden
Almost six months after the earthquake that took down Christchurch, the plans for building it back up have been made public.
The reborn Christchurch will be unlike any other city, unlike its old self, seeking to transform despair into hope, as one city councilor said.
Christchurch, the Garden City, will become the city in a garden, according to its broad-shouldered mayor. The Central Business District will, in effect, be a thing of the past. Most of the landmark buildings, its heritage, its calling cards, will be gone. The new city will be lower, greener and more spread out. At the heart of the new Christchurch will be the gorgeous, leisurely Avon River. Upon its banks will be serpentine parks, bike paths and green areas - a botanical soul to a defiant city.
Mayor Bob Parker, Christchurch's velvet-voiced rock of strength, called the plans a bold vision of the future and asked Cantabrians to add their voice to what he said were just aspirational blueprints at this point. It would take all of Christchurch's people to rebuild - as one.
"If we are apart, we will fail, so let us all embrace it together," he said, imploring his people to be a part of the process. "Be big-hearted, be big-minded, see the big picture and drive this process together.”
The bottom line - the sad, undeniable, heartbreaking bottom line - is that Christchurch will never be the same again. So, if it must be different, it should be better, it should inspiring, it should be a sight to behold.
While looking forward, Parker also vowed to remember the past. He has been a man of extraordinary strength - ubiquitous, avuncular and parental.
"Today is about remembering the people we've lost ... this plan is for them, and this plan is for the extraordinary, courageous people of Christchurch," he said.
This will never be again.
The plans include a much smaller core business district and a light rail project to connect Christchurch with Canterbury University. New buildings would be restricted to seven floors - and who, really, would not have worries in anything taller? The city would blend with nature, rather than tempt it. If Christchurch's love of gardening and horticulture is unleashed, this vision will, indeed create a place most unique.
But it will require the buy-in of its people. The price tag will not be small. Parker has said the Christchurch Council would front up $2 billion. Even in New Zealand that doesn't buy much these days. So private investors will have to be found. Insurance monies will have to be used. Confidence will have to be provided.
But it can be done. And, if I know the people of Christchurch, it will be done. Maybe not next year, nor in five years, but Parker's 10-year timetable seems doable. By then, the experts say, the earth will have stopped moving, and people will be looking ahead, not girding themselves for the next tremors.
It could be. It must be, if Christchurch is to be something other than the city that was killed by an earthquake.