Back Work starts on McKenzie and Willis site - bars and restaurants to move in

Date: 26 August 2015

Work has started on the $50 million McKenzie and Willis development in Christchurch's Innovation Precinct, as more businesses sign up to move in next year.

The complex of three buildings around lanes and a courtyard is being built behind the historic McKenzie and Willis facade, on the corner of Tuam and High sts.

Foundation excavations began on Monday, and extra steel is being added to secure the facade. Construction will take a year.

Developer Richard Peebles said restaurant Joe's Garage was the latest tenant to commit to the complex, taking premises on the High-Tuam corner. The restaurant franchise has suburban outlets in Christchurch, and was on the corner of Hereford and Liverpool streets in the central city before the earthquakes.

Leasing agent Bonnie Stone of CBRE said a travel company she could not yet name would move in, and three other bar and restaurant businesses were negotiating to take premises.

Peebles said it was a relief to have the old McKenzie and Willis building demolished and to be starting work. The project had been exhausting so far, he said.

"It's like any development, but with the added complication of how to hold up a 100-year-old used pile of bricks. It's exciting to be under way."

Peebles is building the complex as a joint venture with shareholders of the furniture and furnishings retailer McKenzie and Willis. The company owned the site and occupied it until the earthquakes, but is now in Blenheim Rd.

The biggest tenant in the new complex will be Christchurch-grown crimefighting software developer Wynyard Group, which will move 100 staff into the central city for the first time from Burnside. It will take most of the upstairs office space in the two buildings facing Tuam and High streets.

A revamped warehouse building further back on the site will also form part of the development, and will house mainly hospitality tenants. As well, there will be a 90-space car park on St Asaph St.

Designs of the new complex have been tweaked to allow the restaurants and bars more outdoor space.  

The lanes, some of which are now owned by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), will connect with those in the South Frame adjoining the block.

The beginning of the development is another step forward for the Innovation Precinct, the most advanced of the government-designed business and residential zones which will frame the new-look central city. 

Occupants with a total of around 1500 workers have already committed to premises in the Innovation Precinct. They include Kathmandu and Vodafone, which both of which have new headquarters under construction on Tuam St.  Others include Dux de Lux bars, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Innovation Hub, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Graduate School,  and Government agency Callaghan Innovation.

An artist's impression of McKenzie and Willis development in central Christchurch. Wynyard Group and Joe's Garage are among tenants moving in.

Laneways in the new development will connect with the South Frame.


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