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Go-ahead given for $30m building on quake-hit Excelsior site

An artist’s impression of the building planned by Anthony Leighs' company Portus for the former Excelsior Hotel site in central Christchurch.

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An artist’s impression of the building planned by Anthony Leighs’ company Portus for the former Excelsior Hotel site in central Christchurch.

One of the high-profile central Christchurch sites still vacant after the earthquakes will be redeveloped after a $30 million building project was given the go-ahead.

The property, at the corner of High, Manchester and Lichfield streets, was home to the heritage Excelsior Hotel until its demolition in 2011.

At the time of the quakes it held a backpacker hostel and bar. Attempts since then to build on the land have foundered.

A company owned by construction boss Anthony Leighs now owns the land and will put up a four-storey office, retail and hospitality building.

READ MORE:
* Construction of Invercargill’s $40 million hotel on schedule
* Excelsior Hotel site in central Christchurch for sale again after developers drop heritage replica plan
* Works starts on rescue of century-old Christchurch heritage facade
* Christchurch heritage facade for sale – without the building

The Excelsior Hotel in 2010. The distinctive Canary Island Palm alongside is now 12m tall and 9m wide.

Carys Monteath/Stuff

The Excelsior Hotel in 2010. The distinctive Canary Island Palm alongside is now 12m tall and 9m wide.

It will be built from timber with a glass facade, and house the offices of Leighs’ construction company, Leighs Construction, as well as tenants.

Resource consent for the development has been granted by the Christchurch City Council.

The land is now in use as a Wilson car park.

In 2011 the Christchurch Heritage Trust bought the damaged hotel with plans to rescue it, saying the loss of the category-one listed 1800s building was “unthinkable”.

The development site on the corner of Lichfield St, High St and Manchester St.

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff

The development site on the corner of Lichfield St, High St and Manchester St.

Later that year the building was demolished except for the western facade, which was retained propped up behind shipping containers.

Developer Canterbury Property Investments bought the site from the trust ion 2016, with a covenant requiring the hotel to be rebuilt. The company demolished the remnant and announced plans to rebuild a replica.

In 2018, it received resource consent for a building described as similar in appearance to the Excelsior.

By 2020, it had secured a tenant but said the state of the central city made the project unviable, and it put the property back up for sale.

The new building will have offices, shops and a cafe or bar. (Artist’s impression)

Supplied

The new building will have offices, shops and a cafe or bar. (Artist’s impression)

Leighs’ development company, Portus Holdings Ltd, bought the 925m² site under the name 211 High St Ltd during 2022.

The newly approved building will have three storeys of offices, spaces for shops, and a cafe or bar at street level, facing High and Lichfield streets, and a basement car park.

It is expected to be finished next year.

It will be built with timber columns and beams behind a curved glass facade, with an open atrium inside.

The Excelsior Hotel demolition on the corner of Manchester and High streets in 2011.

Kirk Hargreaves/Stuff

The Excelsior Hotel demolition on the corner of Manchester and High streets in 2011.

Resource consent conditions include precautions to protect the 12m-high, 9m wide Canary Island Palm tree that is a distinctive feature of the High-Manchester-Lichfield corner.

Portus has also developed the Riverside apartment tower in Carlton Mill Rd, Merivale, the Waterman office building in Ferrymead, and an industrial building in Auckland.

Leighs’ Construction has completed many of the city’s major new construction projects including hospital, school, office and airport buildings. It has also been involved in restorations at Christchurch’s Arts Centre and recently took on the $250m rebuild of Scott Base.

The company now has its offices in the Strange’s building opposite the Excelsior site.

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