Topic: New Regent Street

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New Regent Street was marketed as ‘The most beautiful street in New Zealand’ when it was opened by Mayor D G Sullivan in April 1932.

New Regent Street was marketed as ‘The most beautiful street in New Zealand' when it was opened by Mayor D G Sullivan in April 1932.

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.Built by a development company,  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 1946.

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.

The area was originally known as "The Circus paddock" as it was where circuses set themselves up in the 1880s.
The street is rated a heritage site because of the Spanish mission style of its continuous facades chosen by architect Harry Francis Willis (1893?-1972). The street was first proposed by George Gould (1865-1941) in 1929 and opened by Mayor D. G Sullivan in 1932.

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