Vacant lot finally sells for $30m
After years of disputes and legal wrangling, a large vacant block near Christchurch Airport has sold for an estimated $30 million and is likely to be developed.
The high-profile 17.4 hectares of paddock on the corner of Memorial Ave and Russley Rd (State Highway 1) by the airport gateway, has been at the centre of a long saga.
For years long-time owner Graham Heazlewood screened the site behind black polythene spray-painted with the message ‘‘airport land theft’’.
He was protesting zoning rules preventing him from building houses, shops or offices while the airport opposite developed its land.
The property has been the subject of submissions to the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury (ECan) and central government. It has also been in and out of the hands of family trusts associated with Heazlewood, and at the centre of a matrimonial court battle.
About three years ago, it was rezoned from allowing rural use only to industrial park use.
Heazlewood’s company, Memorial Investments, then put the site on the market, and it was finally offered by deadline sale this month.
The buyer’s identity remains under wraps, but Savills real estate agent Ryan Geddes, who handled the sale, said it was a group planning to occupy part of the land and develop the rest.
The price has also not been disclosed but it is understood to be more than $30m.
Permitted uses for the land could include industry and technology, hotels, service stations, food outlets, gyms, film production, parking buildings, and bulk trade-type retailing.
Geddes said interest in the site came from businesses wanting to use part of the land, and ‘‘three or four’’ developers wanting the whole lot.
The land’s location was ‘‘fantastic’’ and a lot could be done with it, he said.
’’It’s great news that someone is finally going to develop the site, because it’s sat there for a long, long time caught up in controversy and planning issues.’’
Heazlewood bought the land in parts starting in the early 1990s, unsuccessfully applying to rezone it to develop large format retail, a 300-bed hotel, upmarket restaurants and an office park.
He accused the city council of conflict of interest because of its majority ownership of the airport, and erected his protest fence in 2003.
By 2007, the makeshift fencing had become tagged and torn and was being labelled an eyesore. After years of public complaints the site was eventually tidied.
It has been the subject of several sales campaigns leading up to its eventual sale this month.