The Breathe Urban Village Competition: Why did it fail to deliver?

  • Lin Roberts
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.


Adair, A., Berry, J., Deddis, W. et al. (1998). Accessing Private Finance: the Availability and Effectiveness of Private Finance in Urban Regeneration. London: Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Adair, A., Berry, J., McGreal, S., Deddis, B., & Hirst, S. (1999). Evaluation of investor behaviour in urban regeneration. Urban Studies, 36(12), pp.2031-2045

Adair, A., Berry, J., McGreal, S., Deddis, B. and Hirst, S. (2000). The financing of urban regeneration. Land Use Policy 17(2): pp.147-156

Adair, A., Berry, J., McGreal, S. (2003a). Financing Property’s Contribution to Regeneration. Urban Studies, 40 (5-6): pp.1065—1080

Adair, A., Berry, J., McGreal, S., Poon, J., Hutchison, N., Watkins, C., and Gibb, K. (2003b). Urban regeneration and property investment performance. Journal of Property Research, 20 (4): pp.371-386

Adair, A., Berry, J., McGreal, S., Poon, J., Hutchison, N., Watkins, C., and Gibb, K. (2003c). Benchmarking urban regeneration, RICS Foundation, London, England, 25pp.

Adair, A., Berry, J., McGreal, S., Poon, J., Hutchison, N., Watkins, C., and Gibb, K. (2005). Investment performance within urban regeneration locations. Journal of Property Investment and Finance, 23 (1): pp.7-21

Adams, D., De Sousa, C., & Tiesdell, S. (2010). Brownfield development: A comparison of North American and British approaches. Urban Studies 47(1):75-104

Adams, D., & Tiesdell, S. (2013). Shaping places: urban planning, design and development. Routledge

Bailey, N. (1995). Partnership Agencies in British Urban Policy. UCL Press. London

Berkeley, N., Jarvis, D, and Noon, D. (2017). Funding Economic Regeneration. In: Roberts, P., Sykes, H., & Granger, R. (Eds.). Urban regeneration. 2nd ed. Sage, London, pp.71-86

Breathe Competition Information Pack (2012). Breathe: The new urban village project. A competition to design and build a new place for living in the Central City.

Breathe Stage 2 Competition Briefing Document (2013) PDF

Burgess, J.C. (2011). Sustainability of the New Zealand Housing Stock. BRANZ Study Report SR 253.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011

Carmona, M., de Magalhaes, C., Edwards, M., Awuor, B., and Aminossehe, S. (CABE). (2001). The Value of Urban Design: A research report commissioned by CABE and DETR to examine the value added by good urban design. London: Thomas Telford Publishing

Carter, A. and Roberts, P. (2017). Strategy and partnership in urban regeneration. In: Roberts, P., Sykes, H., & Granger, R. (Eds.). Urban regeneration. 2nd ed. Sage, London, pp.44-67

CCC (Christchurch City Council), undated. Building Multi-unit Housing (In Living 3 zones) An Urban Design Guide for Christchurch.

CCRP (Christchurch Central Recovery Plan). (2012). Christchurch Central Recovery Plan

Deeg, R. and Hardie, I. (2016). What is patient capital and who supplies it? Socio-Economic Review 14 (4): pp.627-645

Green Building Council (undated). Why build to homestar?

Gyourko, J. and Rybczynski, W. 2001. Financing New Urbanism. Working Paper #369, Wharton University of Pennsylvania, Real Estate Center

King, J. (2014). Breathe: A case study in the difficulties of breaking convention. In: Bennett, B., Dann, J., Johnson, E., and Reynolds, R. (eds) Once in a lifetime: city-building after disaster in Christchurch. Freerange Press, pp.408-416

Leinberger, C. B. (2007). Back to the future: the need for patient equity in real estate development finance. The Brookings Institution Research Brief, 15pp

McNamara, P. (1993). Parameters for institutional investment in inner city commercial property markets, in: J. N. Berry, W.S.McGreal and W. S. Deddis (Eds) ,Urban Regeneration Property Investment and Development,. London, pp. 5—15

Meyer, P.B. and Lyons, T.S. (2000). Lessons from Private Sector Brownfield Redevelopers Planning Public Support for Urban Regeneration. Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 66, No 1, Winter 2000

MFE (Ministry for the Environment). (2005). The Value of Urban Design: The economic, environmental and social benefits of urban design. 85pp

New Zealand Government (2017) Urban Development Authorities Discussion Document. 126pp.

New Zealand Productivity Commission (2012). Housing Affordability Inquiry. The New Zealand Productivity Commission, 329pp

OECD (2017). New Zealand 2017. OECD Environmental Performance Reviews. 254pp.

Roberts, P. (2017). The evolution, definition and purpose of urban regeneration. In: Roberts, P., Sykes, H., & Granger, R. Urban regeneration. 2nd edition. Sage, London, pp.9-43

Roberts, P., Sykes, H., & Granger, R. (2017). Introduction. In: Roberts, P., Sykes, H., & Granger, R. Urban regeneration. 2nd edition. Sage, London, pp.3-8

Trowers and Hamlin. (2016). Highly Valued, Hard to Value - Towards an integrated measurement of real estate development. Research by Oxford Brookes University. 51pp.

Tyler, P., Warnock, C., Provins, A., with Wells, P., Brennan, A., Cole, I., Gilbertson, J., Gore, T., Crisp, R., Green, A., May-Gillings, M., and Phang. Z. (2010). Valuing the Benefits of Regeneration. Economics paper 7: Volume I - Final Report. Department for Communities and Local Government, 129pp.

Urban Task Force Report. (1999). Towards an urban renaissance: the report of the Urban Task Force chaired by Lord Rogers of Riverside; executive summary. Urban Task Force.,%20Transport%20and%20the%20Regions/1999/Towards%20an%20Urban%20Renaissance.pdf
Peer Reviewed Articles