A survey of the Christchurch central business district (CBD) by Lincoln University students reveals pedestrian numbers are approaching those of pre-earthquakes 2008.
However, property studies lecturer, Associate Professor John McDonagh, said a delay in the redevelopment of the CBD had seen suburban competition strengthen its relative position.
He said it raised the question if the numbers were enough to support the number of retailers in the CBD and their higher costs post-earthquake.
It was the first time students had returned to the central city counting foot-traffic since the 1990s, but they were able to compare data with another study conducted in 2008.
They surveyed 61 locations, on the weekend and weekdays.
Associate Professor McDonagh said some of the locations were dramatically different, for example, Gloucester St near New Regent St was under 200 from 2003-2008 and almost 700 in 2018.
“This could be the result of an important tourist hotel (the Rendezvous) being constructed in this location in 2010 and this being one of the few central city hotels to survive the earthquakes.
“In addition, nearby New Regent Street is one of the few concentrations of heritage buildings to survive the earthquakes relatively intact and this street also contains boutique businesses that re-opened relatively quickly and are highly differentiated from suburban mall offerings.
“However the traditional centre of CBD retail on Cashel Mall and upper High street had experienced a significant decline in pedestrian numbers since 2008, while lower High St, upper Victoria St and east of the Square had increased pedestrian counts.”
He said there were other factors that could affect the count too.
“At the time of the survey, there were substantial areas where rebuilding had not been completed, or even started, and large areas of ‘dead frontage’ existed disrupting pedestrian traffic.
“In addition the reduced attractiveness of the CBD as a tourist destination and accommodation capacity constraints have limited visitor numbers in the city.
“It is too early to determine if these pedestrian flows are permanent shifts or transitional effects, but the data collected here is interesting, and can serve as a base for future trend analysis if the study is repeated at regular intervals,” Associate Professor McDonagh said.