The Art Shop is the first business opened in the old MED building restored since the earthquakes.
The historic former MED building in Christchurch has reopened as the new home of an art gallery, media company and technology companies.
After being out of service since the earthquakes, the Armagh St building has been restored and is finally back in business.
The 1930s building was originally a substation as part of Christchurch’s Metropolitan Electrical Department (MED) complex, and was later taken over by power companies Southpower and then Orion.
It was purchased by the Crown after the earthquakes. The old MED office building next door was demolished in 2012.
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In 2018, Crown rebuilt the Ōtākaro company sold the building to Armagh Welles Ltd for $2.4 million. Armagh Welles is owned by Christchurch property development company Box 112 and a few small shareholders.
The property is now fully let.
The Art Shop, a commercial gallery that sells New Zealand artwork on commission, has opened on the ground floor, and the owner of the NZME radio station and newspaper will move in next door later this month.
Two tech companies will move into first-floor offices next month.
Box 112 manager Rob Farrell said he was delighted to have completed the project after all the delays caused by the Covid pandemic and the difficulties facing the construction industry.
“The team is very happy that after 24 very disruptive months, we all have this beautiful building, and that it is open to the public to enter and enjoy.”
The building is at the end of the East Frame Housing area and Rauora Park, and is opposite the Margaret Mahy Playground.
The Art Shop is owned by John and Kate Morrison, who have held annual art exhibitions across the country for several years, and their business partner Anthony Buckby.
Their 400 m² gallery has a double height ceiling and art exhibition space on the ground floor and on the mezzanine. Some interior walls can be moved to accommodate exhibits.
Buckby said they were drawn to both the location and the building itself.
“It’s an amazing building. People come just to take a look.
After the pandemic halted art shows, they had been keen to find a permanent home to sell artwork, he said.
Kate Morrison said she wanted a gallery “with a wide range of art, where people would feel free to come in and have a look”. They were pleased with the response, she said.
“People are surprised to find us here. Many people entering knew it was the MED building.
They hope to start selling wine, coffee and food, and will also hold exhibition openings, she said.
NZME is an Auckland-based publicly traded company that runs its Christchurch operations, including broadcast studios, from premises in the industrial suburb of Middleton.
Its stable of media brands includes Newstalk ZB and ZM radio stations, the New Zealand Herald newspaper and various websites.
The former MED building is listed in the city council’s neighborhood plan as having both historical and social significance.
Constructed of concrete in the 1930s, it features a classically styled plaster facade and distinctive triangular window panes. The renovation has exposed features including high ceilings, steel trusses and wooden undergrowth.
Farrell said when they took over the building it was in excellent structural condition.
Unlike some other Box 112 restoration efforts, such as the restoration of the Public Trust and Midland Club (Cafe Miro) buildings, the project did not require a heritage grant.
Thousands of historic relics have been discovered beneath a central site in Christchurch after resting for 170 years.