Apartment developers Williams Corporation have bought a high-profile Christchurch block and are planning a $23 million townhouse complex.

The land, a half-hectare Riccarton Rd block between Deans Ave and Darvel St opposite Hagley Park, has been largely vacant for over a decade.

Williams Corporation co-managing director Matthew Horncastle said they hoped to build between 40 and 50 townhouses on the site by early 2021.

“It’s a beautiful block of land, near the park and the hospital,” he said.

Townhouses prices will range from “late 300s to late 500s”, depending on size and car parking, Horncastle said. The homes will have two and three bedrooms, some with car parks, and will be two or three storeys high.

The company bought the land this week for just over $4.7m. Horncastle said it was their biggest purchase ever.

Williams Corporation is one of the city’s busiest apartment and townhouse developers, with about 30 complexes either under construction or completed in the central city and suburbs since the earthquakes.

The company is also building homes in Auckland.

Horncastle said they hoped to start construction on the new site within six months.

“They will be fast. We’re into it – we’re not here to muck around,” Horncastle said.

The land was previously owned by the late Lionel Hunter, who also owned the central city CTV building which collapsed in the earthquakes. Hunter died in June, aged 85.

Hunter and other members of his family ran their furniture factory and shop on the site until the business was moved to Moorhouse Ave in 2007.

The land has been on the market since then.

Two multimillion-dollar redevelopment projects proposed for the site, including an ambitious gull-wing shaped retail and office building, failed to get off the ground over zoning issues.

Hopes it would attract an international hotel chain also came to nothing.

Buildings on the site, including a historic house and some of the old Hunter Furniture buildings, were demolished after the earthquakes.

The land has a rating valuation of just under $5.4m, and is zoned for medium-density residential development.

Originally it was occupied by timber merchants W H Smith Ltd.

Because the land has a long frontage to Riccarton Rd, Horncastle said they planned to break up the look by building three different townhouse blocks and planting a row of cherry trees.

“We don’t want it looking like Coronation Street.”

They were persuaded to buy the land after an earlier Riccarton project sold out in record time, he said.

Riccarton is one of the Christchurch inner suburbs seeing high levels of townhouse and apartment construction due to new minimum-density zoning rules.

This has triggered controversy over developments by Williams Corporation and other developers, drawing complaints from neighbours over disruptive construction practices and the lack of off-street parking, especially on narrow streets.


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