Developers are focused on rebuilding central Christchurch, with construction of the first new hotel expected to start within weeks.
Latimer Hotel chief executive Peter Knight said work on foundations for a $25 million hotel, replacing its predecessor in Latimer Square, would start before Christmas, pending a resource consent hearing on December 19.
He said he could not find a local insurer to underwrite the project, forcing the company to go to Lloyd's in London to secure contracts insurance.
"We've really had to do our homework," he said. "They just don't want any risk."
The five-storey hotel would be built on piles 13.5 metres deep, which exceeded the standard for new buildings. "The engineers are a lot more concerned than they were before."
Richard Peebles is another central-city property owner pushing to rebuild, with designs for eight new inner-city buildings on sites left vacant after demolition work following the February 22 earthquake. They have not yet received Christchurch City Council sign-off, but Peebles said he hoped to begin the first, on the former Lonsdale House site in Worcester St, in February.
All are low-rise. The tallest, a three-storey glass box, is planned for the former Manchester Courts site.
He said he had wanted to build a seven-storey building on the site but ran into insurance difficulties.
The cost will be 10 to 15 per cent more than the value of old buildings, excluding the work for stronger foundations, but Peebles dismissed suggestions that rebuilding in the central city was not economically viable.
"I'm very confident. We've got $20 billion being invested in this city and we are going to be in boom time in the next five to 10 years," he said.
Others are more cautious, claiming inner-city buildings built in isolation will struggle to attract tenants.
Antony Gough, whose family owns most of the Oxford Tce Strip and part of the City Mall, backed the Latimer Hotel but was sceptical about other proposals.
"There are a lot of people with sections downtown and some sketches looking for tenants," he said. "I'm a little cynical about how many will get off the ground."
Successful rebuilding would initially be concentrated in precincts on the outskirts of the city core, such as New Regent St or the City Mall, he said.
Development firm Ganellen has plans for an ultra-modern building on the former Press site in Cathedral Square.
Ganellen New Zealand director Michael Doig said many decisions were needed before developers could rebuild with confidence.
Figures show that since the February quake the council has had 97 resource consent applications within the four avenues, and granted 71.These included where major infrastructure, such as the new town hall, would be located and whether the city core would shift.
Another 161 building consents have been received, with 85 granted. Most of these were for commercial buildings, representing about $73 million of work.
Many consents were for the edges of the central business district, with few, if any, in the central red zone.