Local Good News/Christchurch
by Steve Carter
All the neat places in the CBD are gone, right?
That’s what people seem to think about Christchurch. The earthquakes have wreaked so much devastation in the Central City that there is no longer a soul to connect to: no venues, no cafes … no life.
Marcia Butterfield knows that this is no longer really the case. As the red zone cordon creeps back and areas of the city are reenergised by new ventures or the relocation of old favourites, life is slowly, tentatively reasserting itself. Marcia radiates the forward-thinking attitude of someone loyal to this now most unique of cities when she tells me, “The new Christchurch is going to be so amazing … well, it already is in so many ways.”
And she wants to tell the world about it.
Hence Neat Places, a fantastic little resource in the form of a pocket-sized foldout map. It’s not just any old cookie-cooker tourist map either. It is beautifully designed, by Kim at Bittersweet Creatives, as a quirky pencil-sketched map dotted with flags which pinpoint as many of the interesting places that Marcia could practically fit in. The aim is to support local, quirky character. As Marcia says, “My focus was just to promote the small, independent businesses in the Central City and showcase why they are so cool.”
On the reverse is a short, idiosyncratic description of each venue, cafe or retail store. It is a handy little guide that is suitable for locals looking for information that will help them to ground themselves in the reemergence of the city, or for tourists wanting to know where they can go to engage with aspects of the changing post-quake destination.
There is also a supporting online directory which allows for the constantly expanding nature of the resource as the city begins to be repopulated and reused in earnest. New places to visit are popping up all the time – some of them are literally ‘pop-up’ like the Re:Start Mall or temporary bars like Smash Palace, while others signal the new locations and new lives of Christchurch institutions such as Galaxy Records or Alice In Videoland.
Marcia started the project after the September 2010 quake with a view to promoting the fact that the city within the Four Avenues was still vibrant. She says that the Council had no money to support the idea financially so she decided to do it for free and in her own time. A year later, and with the central city so much more comprehensively laid low by the damage of February, the Council approached her to say they now had a budget to promote the area and they would like to work together to distribute Neat Places more widely.
They funded all the extra costs of design and printing … but it was still a heap of leg work (literally) to get around the CBD and check out all the places that were still open, reopened or brand new.
“It’s kind of my passion,” Marcia tells me, “Spending time in cafes.” So she continued the task of capturing as much as possible of the new life in her city. “After all, if people can be presented with a choice or a list of options, they might actually visit those places rather than visiting the malls.”
That has to be good for building a sense of identity and getting dollars flowing through the CBD again. Which may, in turn, foster a sense of new beginnings and thereby attract further investments and relocations.
The city is reborn, neatplace after neat place.
Neat Places not a comprehensive directory but neither does it claim just to represent the best of the best. It is, simply, what it is. Marcia says that, more than anything, she tries to see “great things about every individual place.”
Her motivation to play her own small part in the recovery is very clear. She says, “I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else … especially during this time. I couldn’t face the idea of leaving for a few years and then coming back to a place where everything had changed.” She describes not wanting to feel alienated or disconnected from the city … from “everything we have become.”
She captures the kaupapa of her project succinctly: “Neat Places is about getting people reinspired by the city.”
What can I say? That is just … neat.
If you want to know more about all the great new places springing up in the new Christchurch central city, you can connect with Neat Places through the online directory athttp://www.neatplaces.co.nz/ or at the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/neatplaces