UNDER the Invercargill sky, cranes have been working intensely for the past two years in what has been described as the most transformational project for the city in this generation.
Invercargill’s city centre is quite literally being rebuilt and in the centre of the revamp, the Invercargill Central Ltd development is taking shape.
With the first part of the project to be opened on June 10, about 200 labourers had been working full steam ahead in order to make it happen.
Covid-19 lockdowns and some other interruptions, including an injunction to halt the work, put extra pressure on the development.
However, during a tour of the new development, Invercargill Central project director Geoff Cotton and developer Scott O’Donnell were pleased with the progress.
“It’s been done pretty well – the project is tracking along. Obviously we had some interruptions… but despite that, it is going well and now is the important year – 2022, because we’ve got to open,” Mr Cotton said.
The $165 million project will include 675 car parks, three different food and beverage zones with more than 20 options, and retail outlets.
Mr O’Donnell said 85% of the floor space within the development had been leased. Anchor tenant Farmers, 250 car parks and about 25% of the stores, including Glassons and Hallenstein Brothers, would be part of the first stage.
A combined store of Max and Barkers, a mega Cotton On store (including Cotton On Kids, Cotton On Body and Rubi Shoes), Merchant 1948, Pagani and Australian surfwear brand Amazon were among the confirmed businesses to open later in the year.
“We have quite a few new brands turning up and that is probably the highlight. I know a lot of people in Southland want something new and invigorating so hopefully we are doing our best to bring those down,” Mr O’Donnell said.
Mr O’Donnell also would like to clarify the project was currently “on budget” of $165 million.
Some confusion was drawn last week when Invercargill City Council (ICC) started to consult about further investment for the development.
It had already invested $46 million to support the first three stages of the project, but now council was proposing to invest a further $7.5 million in the development and provide a $22.5 million short-term loan for the project in light of a shortage of funding.
The document states the project cost has increased by $180, but Mr O’Donnell denied that.
He said although the project was on budget, due to the uncertainty in both construction and supply chain, council wanted to have the ability to deal with any “curve balls” to ensure timely completion and early consultation.
The decision to not take a commercial bank loan until the centre had been operating for one year was another reason for this loan as Mr O’Donnell was proposing ICC and HW Richardson Group both put up the short-term loan of $22.75 million each in the interim.
The $22.75 million short-term loan would be on commercial terms to be repaid and replaced with a bank loan at the end of 2023, he said.
“It makes commercial sense to eliminate the bank until late 2023, meaning ICL shareholders could remain the first level of security over the entire project.”
ICC said this investment would not have an impact on rates.
Consultation on the proposal will close on February 11.