Cathedral Square site sells at auction for multimillion dollar sum

Christchurch site sells for $6.65m to national tourist retailer

National tourist retailer Aotea Gifts has bought a strategic Christchurch corner site at 9 Cathedral Square for $6.65 million.

A national tourist retailer has signalled strong confidence in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square, buying a strategic corner site for $6.65 million.

Aotea Gifts has bought the former United Service Hotel site on the southwest corner of Cathedral Square.

The 1371sq m of bare land was sold under the hammer at Colliers International, attracting 11 bids.

Colliers International Christchurch Managing Director Hamish Doig says the price indicates a strong interest in the Cathedral Square vicinity.

“It’s a great price, especially considering that it is harder to get bank funding against bare land," Doig says.

"The interest shown in the auction is a sign of confidence in the location and there were several disappointed parties who missed out on the iconic site.”

National tourist retailer Aotea Gifts has bought a strategic Christchurch corner site at 9 Cathedral Square for $6.65 million.

Launched in 1979, Aotea currently has stores in Auckland, Rotorua, Queenstown, Lake Tekapo and Dunedin. Aotea operated its Naturally New Zealand store in Cathedral Square for 31 years.

Before the earthquakes, Aotea Gifts employed 70 people in its three stores and head office located in the Christchurch CBD.

Joint marketing agent Courtney Doig says Aotea Gifts has been waiting for the right site on which to re-establish a high-profile presence.

“Aotea are long term investors and are planning a retail and tourism infrastructure facility.

"It’s the perfect location for them near to hotels, the Cathedral when it is repaired or rebuilt, and its proximity to the planned Convention Centre.”

Aotea spokesman Richard Hanson outlined the motivation for the family’s commitment to re-establish in Christchurch.

National tourist retailer Aotea Gifts has bought a strategic Christchurch corner site at 9 Cathedral Square for $6.65 million.

“We are now seeing increasing numbers of travellers establishing links with Christchurch," he says.

"There will soon be a critical mass of hotel beds, matched with international air capacity. This has given us the confidence to secure the site for a new home for our businesses in Canterbury.”

The Greenwood family has owned the property since at least the 1920s but has decided against developing the bare land itself.

Spokesman John Greenwood says the trust is delighted with the price and that such a respected national retailer is returning to Christchurch.

“Their plans will bring life back to Cathedral Square and we’re pleased they see such value in the property.” 

Originally known as the Morten Building, the site was bought by Mr Richard Morten for 3950 pounds from the estate of Mr Edward Gibbon Wakefield.

National tourist retailer Aotea Gifts has bought a strategic Christchurch corner site at 9 Cathedral Square for $6.65 million.

The United Service Hotel was built in 1884-85, and a fifth storey added in 1929.

During its heydays, the hotel hosted Queen Elizabeth, leading European Heads of State and Royals, and Antarctic explorers Sir Ernest Shackleton and Sir Robert Falcon Scott. Famous violinist Jan Kubelik was another guest while George Bernard Shaw was interviewed there by reporters. 

The building was demolished in January 1990, as was a subsequent office building housing the ANZ after the earthquakes.


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