“It is the nature of the work when you are working with heritage fabric. Each stone has to come down and be put back in place. It’s very time consuming.” Deane Simmonds Christchurch Arts Centre Trust Board
We were told recently that the restoration of the quake–damaged Christchurch Arts Centre could take 10- 15 years. Each historic building was red stickered after the lethal 22/2 quake and all the tenancies except one have been ended.
Among the terminated are the Dux de Lux, the former Student Union building before the University of Canterbury’s move to Ilam and Annie’s Wine Bar, part of the former library. The building occupied by the Dux was designed in 1883 for a merchant by Francis William Petre, the architect of the now badly damaged Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and bought by the university in 1926. After it became the Student Union in 1929 many of us UC alumni spent much time in the building honing our skills in Billiards I and Snooker II.
Former tenant and Dux de Lux owner Richard Sinke says that the Dux- wood and brick, not stone, but still historic-could be fixed and ready in weeks. He has offered to help fund the repair work.
We understand the Trust Board’s position that limited repair funds have to be prioritised. But it’s not good enough to say “If we spend money to fix the Dux de Lux, what happens if we run out of money for the Great Hall and the Clock Tower”. At least the Great Hall has now got its correct name back, but this is an obtuse argument.
Let’s make opening the Dux second priority after sorting safety issues. Apparently work to make the outside of the Arts Centre buildings safe is almost finished. Once it is, reduce the cordon inside the Arts Centre precinct a little, confining it to the old stone buildings. This would get the Dux in a row of functioning businesses, including the one lease still operating, the cheese shop in the back of the old Registry and others on the Montreal Street fringe which are able to open in the short to medium term, including some of the food and craft stalls in part of the stall area near the Dux.
As well as closure some people want “opensure”. I look forward to at least part of the Dux reopening, like Ballantynes, for New Zealand Cup week, and maybe even before the Rugby World Cup starts. It will be another positive step to drawing people back to parts of the inner city, but it will only happen if the Trust Board takes a more flexible approach.
Until the February 22 quake, the Dux contributed 20% of the Trust Board’s income. If the social needs of the shaken citizens of Christchurch don’t stir the Board into action you’d think self-interest and self-preservation would. A torrent of letters to the Press, including one of mine, is now finally evincing a response*.
A Sinke fund is better than a sinking fund. We need to shed some more light on the way the tenancies of the Dux de Lux and other Arts Centre businesses have been handled and sheet home the Board’s responsibility to be more responsive to the needs of its own stakeholders, of the citizens of Christchurch and of visitors from outside the city and the country.
Unless there is some early engagement of the public inside a social bridgehead on the south east corner of the precinct, as Yeats may have repeated, the Centre will not hold.
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http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/5124923/Arts-Centre-was-seconds-from-collapse [Added 10/6/11]