If you ask a local what they’re proud of in Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-largest city, he or she would probably point you to the town center. It’s a point of pride for Christchurch residents for more than the shopping, sights and street-side entertainment — it’s a special center because, against the odds, it is one. On February 22, 2011, a large earthquake damaged several buildings in Christchurch’s central business district and many have since been demolished.
Since the quake, local developers have risen to the challenge to provide something really unique, something you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Replacing an empty lot on central Cashel Street, a site that once housed some of the city’s most popular stores, renowned architecture firm The Buchan Group built a contemporary and unique shopping experience that opened in late October 2011.
The Re:Start Village, or the “container mall” as it’s most popularly known, is a shopping center built out of shipping containers, temporary buildings that provide a brand new experience for locals and tourists alike. Fashion and culture lie at the heart of the inspiring space, which often introduces novel stores and events; past happenings have included fashion shows, panel discussions about the future of Christchurch and a launch party when Songs for Christchurch, a compilation album benefiting new projects in the city, was released. With popular designers and labels such as Trelise Cooper, Maher Shoes and the iconic Ballantynes store already well established, the mall is now pulling big international names like Lululemon Athletica, one of the world’s biggest fitness clothing brands, which is due to set up shop by June.
The space is well known for its street art, with huge wall murals painted by local artists Nick Tam, Wongi Wilson and Rachael Dewhirst providing a colorful welcome for visitors. Fashion shows, homegrown buskers, street-side music and even the occasional flash-mob dance party only accentuate the experience, which never leaves shoppers without entertainment.
A delicious lunch can be found at Hummingbird Coffee or Crafted Coffee Company, boutique coffee roasters that put a range of blends on offer from regions all over the world, including Kenya and Colombia. Hummingbird packs a fantastic menu; try the Mediterranean vegetable salad or avocado and zucchini corn fritters.
The Quake City museum is another popular attraction. Opening on February 15, just days short of the two-year anniversary of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, this museum allows visitors to get a sense of Christchurch’s rich history and the legacy of its people, who have overcome a series of devastating earthquakes.
The mall, like many other things in Christchurch at the moment, is only temporary. The space is marked for a complete makeover in upcoming years as buildings go back up, and developers have made no promise as to how long it will be around; however, in late February of this year, leases for Re:Start’s retail tenants were extended to early 2014.
The Re:Start Village may soon be just a memory, but for a perfect day in the sun, you really shouldn’t miss out on it.
Photos courtesy of Briony Bonisch