One of the country’s biggest health insurers, UniMed, has started work building a new office and retail complex on its former central city site in Gloucester St.
The four level building, featuring ground floor retail and three office levels, is beside the reinvigorated Performing Arts Precinct.
Established in 1979, UniMed is the fourth biggest health insurer in New Zealand. Slightly over half its 76,500 members are covered under a corporate scheme, with 41% as individuals. It has a particularly strong presence in the South Island.
The society previously owned a two level building on the site for 20 years and, after the earthquakes, bought two small neighbouring parcels of land to consolidate its holding into a larger space for rebuilding.
Chief executive Dermot Martin said UniMed decided to rebuild on the well-located site as it is easily accessible for both members and staff along with people visiting the city centre.
“We’ve been part of the CBD for more than 30 years and we want to play our part in the Christchurch rebuild.
“We certainly looked carefully at all our options, including locations on the periphery of the CBD. But, given the quality of the existing land for building on, we opted for our own site once a business case had been established. We think that this area will attract a growing following as it is redeveloped and the Performing Arts Centre takes shape,” Martin said.
“We know that the new CBD will not be same as the old one but we believe it will be an attractive place for UniMed and other businesses to operate from in the medium to long term with the natural attractions of the Avon River and parks, features such as the tram, museum and art gallery as well as the planned inner city living apartments and facilities.”
Leasing agent Will Franks, of Colliers International, said the new building’s ground floor provided an excellent opportunity for hospitality operators and retailers given its location beside the Performing Arts Precinct.
“This is going to be a really vibrant part of the city. The Music Centre will be the first project to start construction at the end of this year and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the Court Theatre are in negotiations to locate facilities in the precinct.”
Recently announced plans for the area include a privately built car park next to the Isaac Theatre Royal in Gloucester St, a stone’s throw from the new UniMed building.
The total ground floor covers 415m2, offering flexible configurations so that it can be split to suit tenants, as do levels one and two at 660m2 each. UniMed is occupying the third level.
“This sort of size makes it a perfect office space for medium sized firms who want to be in the central city but don’t require really large floor plates. There’s also the ability to split the space to accommodate prospective tenants with differing requirements,” Franks said
The new building, designed by Wilson and Hill Architects, is over 100% of the New Building Standard, and will be completed by April 2015.