It looks like the green highlighter that was used to ‘Wow’ the population of Christchurch in the original Central City Blueprint has faded already.
The images above can be found in the online article from The Press ‘Green space shrunk down to narrow corridor‘:
Land set aside for residential development in the East Frame has grown substantially and green space shrunk to a narrow corridor, a map recently published the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority suggests.
You could be forgiven for not seeing that coming – at least if you relied upon the glossy images that were fore-fronted in the press releases, media coverage, the famous simulated ‘flyover’ and, even, the official Central City Recovery Plan. Here’s a couple more images from that plan (p. 53):
Of course, we have to remember that, as Warwick Isaacs (Central City Development Unit Director) said:
The old map was “a very broad artist’s impression of the East Frame with a lot of detail still to be worked through,”
It was broad enough that the new “concept image” is almost entirely different, although as, once again, Warwick Isaacs notes, let’s not forget even the current image,
identifies a “substantial component of green space running north-south through the East Frame”, Isaacs said.
“These areas are indicative because the process of acquiring land and preparing it future use is still underway.“
It’s also worth remembering that, on page 35 of the Central City Recovery Plan where The Frame is explicitly discussed, it states that
Defining the Core, and providing new green space and a range of commercial and residential development opportunities, the Frame will reshape central Christchurch. Its three components – East, South and North – each have their own distinct character,
That ‘distinct character’ for the East Frame is given on the same page:
• City-wide family playground
• Retains the form of historic Latimer Square • Street links through from city to east
• Paths for walking and cycling
• Medium-density demonstration housing and long-term residential development
• Provides link to the stadium and potential fan zone
• Facilitates temporary events
• A significant opportunity through views and vistas to enhance links to geographical landmarks
The more general functions of the overall Frame were given on the same page:
• Redefines the central city
• Provides an attractive location for a range of commercial and residential activities
• Articulates the community vision for a green, distinctive, vibrant and accessible city
• Will support a greater choice of housing to attract a diverse range of residents
• Adds visual and open space amenity
• Reduces the need for District Plan rules to control development within the Core which would otherwise be required to address the phasing of development
• Gets people back into the city to enjoy the amenity of the Frame (walking, cycling and playing)
• Provides an alternative cycling and walking network linking the Ōtākaro/ Avon River and Hagley Park
• Provides an attractive campus-style environment for businesses
After reading the words, as opposed to enjoying the images, it’s pretty clear that the Frame was never going to be a swathe of green, open space. It was primarily a mechanism to achieve two things: Increase land prices in the retail precinct; redefine the process of development in the central city.
That’s why the spokesperson for property developers is quite sanguine about the new look:
“Subject to some provisos, it should look good and work fine,” said Connal Townsend [any relation to Chamber of Commerce head, Peter Townsend?], chief executive of the Property Council, a lobby group for developers, investors and banks.
“Yes, there is a less green but there is a green strip.”
A successful East Frame will “hinge on the quality of urban design”, he said.
Di Lucas, a prominent local landscape architect, is also quite pleased:
“The green bit down the middle has got rather slim,” landscape architect Di Lucas said but she praised residential development.
“It’s probably sensible. We need it dense and vibrant. To get it vibrant, we need it dense. To put residential in there is good.”
And CERA and the CCDU, according to Lucas, are not to blame for the misunderstanding of what the East Frame would involve:
“It’s the fault of people in between who assumed that green colouring on a map . . . [meant] green space. It got a momentum of its own.”
It was misleading that the area was sometimes called the “green frame” by people outside Cera.
It was, of course, a little bit more than “green colouring on a map“, as the images above show. Lucas’ comments, however, are useful reminders that ‘Artists Impressions’ are more about PR than reality – a good and timely warning for Christchurch people who are weekly served up ‘artists impressions’ by developers in the central city.
It’s also worth remembering that the “people in between” (??) were not disavowed of their misimpression’s at the time by anyone in CERA, the CCDU or government.
Showing a bit more empathy with the average Christchurch resident, Neil Challenger, a Senior Lecturer at Lincoln University summed up what is probably the general sense amongst the Christchurch population nicely:
“I can understand why people might be surprised and disappointed by the plans now on show,” Neil Challenger a senior lecturer at Lincoln University’s Faculty of Environment, Society and Design. “It’s hard to know quite what that (white space) is, what it means. But it’s clearly a lot more . . . urban and built than most of us had understood was the case.”
In earlier posts I’d expressed scepticism about just how green the Frame would be (see this post) but I can understand why that scepticism wasn’t widespread at the time. In general, most people no longer have the time or inclination to scour these political processes in detail. They tend to trust the general impression that circulates in the popular ether.
It’s all a salutary lesson of how, in our modern world, the population (that’s you and me) is largely treated as a “bewildered herd“, a term made famous by Walter Lippmann.
If we are usefully misinformed, so much the better.
[Postscript: For those wondering, the title is taken from the book ‘How Green Was My Valley‘, by Richard Llewellyn. From the blurb on the site:
Growing up in a mining community in rural South Wales, Huw Morgan is taught many harsh lessons. Looking back, where difficult days are faced with courage and the valleys swell with the sound of Welsh voices, it becomes clear that there is nowhere so green as the landscape of his own memory.]