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New Regent Street's 75th Birthday

29 March 2007

‘The most beautiful street in New Zealand’ celebrates its 75th anniversary on 1 April 2007.

New Regent Street was marketed as ‘The most beautiful street in New Zealand’ when it was opened by Mayor D G Sullivan in April 1931.

Retailers in the street will mark the event by sharing a birthday cake with visitors. The cake will be cut on Sunday at 11am by Gavin Willis, the son of architect H. Francis Willis who designed the distinctive New Regent Street buildings.

Graeme Stanley, Push Play Walk Leader will be leading an hour long walk to celebrate the anniversary of the street on Sunday April 1st starting at 10:30 from the walnut tree in Bangor Street. The tour will reach New Regent Street at approximately 11am.

"An entire street made up of small speciality shops was new in New Zealand at the time and could be seen as a precursor to the shopping mall," says Amanda Ohs, Heritage Planner at the Council.

Built by a development company, New Regent Street Ltd., the new street complete with shop buildings on 40 separate titles was an ambitious venture during the Depression years. The street was one of the very few large-scale projects undertaken in the South Island during the Depression. Shops were marketed at 2,500 pounds each, with 100 pound deposit and 4 pounds rent each week, with the shop becoming freehold after 25 years

Petersens Ltd Jewellers have been based in their shop in New Regent Street since 1939.

The Spanish Mission architectural style employed for the street was not commonly used in Christchurch at the time, and a whole street in this style is unique in New Zealand. The design was the work of local architect H. Francis Willis, also known for designing the Repertory Theatre in Kilmore Street, the Edmonds Clock tower and telephone cabinet in Oxford Terrace, and the Streamlined Art Deco dwelling Santa Barbara in Victoria Street.

Many people still remember the Coffee Pot which used to be in the street, and was one of the most popular places to dine out in Christchurch in the 1950s.

The street was converted to a pedestrian mall in 1994.

These days most of the shops are leased out, rather than being owner-occupied, and visitors to the street are attracted by the cafes as well as the specialist shops.

The street is located on the site of the former Colosseum Building, a very large hall built in 1888 which was a popular venue for large gatherings from political speeches to circuses and a skating rink, and later used by a taxi company.

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