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Arts-themed boutique hotel being explored for Arts Centre

The Arts Centre is liaising with six domestic and international hotel operators about operating a potential arts-themed, boutique, 32-room hotel on the site.

None of the hotel operators can be identified for commercial reasons but all have an established New Zealand presence. Following individual visits and briefings at the site, each has expressed an interest in establishing the boutique hotel that will be located in buildings facing Hereford Street, says Arts Centre CEO André Lovatt.

Artist impression of the proposed boutique hotel at the Arts Centre, image courtesy of the Arts Centre.

“A Request for Proposal (RFP) process is now underway, however no commitment has been made beyond this preliminary work. If the boutique hotel is to proceed, we expect that discussions and negotiations will commence with the preferred operator in July and a decision will be announced in August,” he says.

“A requirement of the RFP is that art and culture are to be placed at the core of the design and operation of the boutique hotel through commissioning local artists in the design, presentation, curation and storytelling opportunities that it represents.

“This type of artistic engagement will allow the Arts Centre to showcase its work in an alternate setting, beyond its formal exhibition spaces and retail stores.”

The proposed hotel will be located within the former Physics and Biology buildings, and the ground floor of the adjacent Observatory Tower, close to the Chemistry building that is leased by the University of Canterbury’s Classics and Music departments. The remainder of the historic Observatory Tower, including the Townsend Teece Telescope and a new education room, will be fully functional, open to the public and operated separately to the hotel.

The idea of incorporating boutique accommodation on the site was first raised in 2013 when the Arts Centre published its publicly promoted, post-earthquake vision for the site. It emphasised that in order order for arts, culture, education and creative industries to flourish at the site, they needed to be carefully balanced with other complementary activities – providing diverse sources of income.

“The Arts Centre is an independent charity held in trust for the people of Canterbury and its visitors,and this responsibility is taken very seriously,” André says.

“We are taking the best available advice on the feasibility and fit-out of the proposed hotel. The robust due diligence and RFP process will enable the Trust Board to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the proposal or not.

“If the arts-themed boutique hotel goes ahead, we will of course be talking to the operators about a whole range of financial options, including different ways to fund the project, including its fit-out.

“We’re excited at the boutique hotel’s potential to attract people from outside of Christchurch who will then be in the midst of the arts, theatre, hospitality and many other activities hosted at the Arts Centre. A hotel would provide a unique opportunity to showcase the Arts Centre’s artistic and cultural programmes and content.

“In the past year we’ve opened the Great Hall and Rutherford’s Den, plus welcomed two exhibition spaces, a range of food and hospitality outlets, a new theatre company and the University’s Music and Classics departments. We’re also looking forward to hosting elements of this year’s Christchurch Arts Festival and SCAPE Public Art Season, plus are about to launch our own community exhibition space, Pūmanawa.

“Along with the other attractions on site, this means that people are rediscovering the Arts Centre as a creative hub for the whole city. We see the potential for a boutique hotel – if the right operator can be found – as an ideal way to expand this experience even further. The arts are at our core. To ensure they flourish here, the Arts Centre needs to offer a balanced mix of complementary tenants. This has always been the basis on which the Arts Centre thrives.”

Background information:

The Arts Centre is New Zealand’s largest collection of Category 1 heritage buildings and it is held in trust for the people of Canterbury and its visitors.

Its 23 buildings suffered extensive damage in the Canterbury earthquakes and an extensive $290 million restoration programme is currently underway – the largest of its type in the world. The site is being progressively re-opened and more than half is now open to the public.

Much of the restoration work is being funded by insurance but the Arts Centre is relying on fundraising, grants and partnerships in order to complete the project. For more than a century, the site was home to Canterbury College, and then the University of Canterbury. Since 1978, the site has been held in trust as a place where arts, culture, education and creativity are fostered, promoted and celebrated.


Updated on 21st July 2017