IT hub confirmed for central Christchurch

Failed property deal results in temporary CBD home for IT firms

The cancellation of a deal between controversial property developer David Henderson and the Christchurch City Council has enabled the creation of a temporary IT hub in central Christchurch.

Epic (Enterprise Precinct and Innovation Campus), a group of 30 IT companies displaced from the Christchurch CBD by the earthquakes, had approached the Council seeking a temporary home.

Yesterday, the Council voted to end a deal struck with Henderson in 2008, under which it would buy five central city properties from him for $17 million, and let Epic use the site as a temporary home. Epic has been given rent-free use of the site for three years, on the condition it can find funding for the buildings, The Press reports.

Epic co-leader Colin Andersen, of IT consultancy Effectus, says Epic has been seeking funding "from a variety of government agencies" for a temporary IT hub in Christchurch. The plan is for the temporary hub to house the IT firms for three years, before a permanent, larger hub is built, Andersen says.

With the cancellation of the Henderson deal, the empty site is confirmed as the temporary hub and Epic will continue to work with the government agencies, which include the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, on the funding request, he says.

Tenants for the temporary hub include Effectus, SLI Systems and Industrial Research.

Next week, expatriate New Zealander Craig Nevill-Manning, an engineering director at Google, and Christopher Coleman, Google's director of global real estate, will visit Christchurch to advise on both the temporary and long-term, permanent hubs.

"Epic has been in touch with Google about this for some months, and they've been very helpful," Andersen says.

There is also interest from other global IT companies in sponsoring the planned permanent campus, he says.

The long-term campus will be at a different site to the temporary one, which is on the corner of Tuam and Manchester Streets.

The temporay campus is approximately 4,000 sq m in size, but the permanent one is envisaged to be around 25,000 sq m.

The Christchurch City Council's now-cancelled arrangement with David Henderson caused controversy at the time, with some calling it a bail-out.

Christchurch-based Henderson is not to be confused with the Auckland property developer, also named David Henderson, who recently left New Zealand for Spain in controversial circumstances.

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