The Breathe Urban Village Competition: Why did it fail to deliver?
Keywords:urban regeneration, Breathe competition, urban village, market approach, earthquake, Christchurch, 'patient capital'
Successful urban regeneration projects generate benefits that are realised over a much longer timeframe than normal market developments and benefits well beyond those that can be uplifted by a market developer. Consequently there is substantial evidence in the literature that successful place-making and urban regeneration projects are usually public-private partnerships and involve a funder, usually local or central government, willing to contribute ‘patient’ capital. Following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that devastated the centre of Christchurch, there was an urgent need to rebuild and revitalise the heart of the city, and increasing the number of people living in or near the city centre was seen as a key ingredient of that. In October 2010, an international competition was launched to design and build an Urban Village, a project intended to stimulate renewed residential development in the city. The competition attracted 58 entrants from around world, and in October 2013 the winning team was chosen from four finalists. However the team failed to secure sufficient finance, and in November 2015 the Government announced that the development would not proceed. The Government was unwilling or unable to recognise that an insistence on a pure market approach would not deliver the innovative sustainable village asked for in the competition brief, and failed to factor in the opportunity cost to government, local government, local businesses and the wider Christchurch community of delaying by many years the residential development of the eastern side of the city. As a result, the early vision of the vitality that a thriving residential neighbourhood would bring to the city has not yet been realised.
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