The Eye of the Fish

May 14, 2019

Courtenay Central revamp

Hooray, at last some sign of movement on the revamp of Courtenay Central. Heaven only knows that it needs it. Closed a few months ago overnight, for unspecified seismic reasons, it has also been obvious for a long time that it needed more than just a seismic paintbrush in its touch-up kit. A dying retail screwup both downstairs and upstairs, with no drawcard to pull people through the mini-mall, most of the retail customers had left long ago, and the whole place felt tired and trashy. That soul-less black ceiling; the stupidity of having a cinema as a major drawcard, but only if you traverse right through the entire mall and then enter from the rear to go upstairs; the ugly, tired and tacky front facade: something had to give.

The good news is that they have hired some decent architects to guide the revamp: Stapleton Elliott. They’re the architects who did the revamp of the downstairs of the Embassy theatre (the Black Sparrow bar) and that has always had a pretty good feel about it, with that wonderful time tunnel effect to get to the movies down below the Grand. The Embassy has, of course, become (once more) the best drawcard for movie-goers in Wellington since the Reading and the Paramount closed down. Always has been number one in my books.

Some blurred and tiny pictures have somehow been sneaked out and published by Stuff, in which it seems that the black ceiling may go, and a large tree somehow has grown inside the Reading development on Courtenay. Stuff confuses things a little by implying that the existing building may be demolished, and also claiming that a Convention Centre is to be built on a site where the building is covered in multi-coloured sharks. Seeing as the sharks are down next to New World supermarket, and seeing as the City Council are already planning a Convention Centre of its own opposite Te Papa, that makes it sound as though Wellington is on track for two convention centres, almost next to each other. Surely not?! Is that just the Stuff reporter getting things wrong and, well, making Stuff up?

No news yet whether Reading are going to do anything with the area out the back (shown here in an appetising render we did for them back in 2013). I’m not sure why they didn’t bite at that one. Better luck for Stapleton Elliott on that one then. If Stapleton’s want to send us some better quality images then they know how to do it: email through to: contact @ eyeofthefish dot org

14 - 05 - 19

Stuff didn’t really “sneak” them out, they cribbed them from a public shareholders presentation last week,

They are on pages 48 and 49 of this

The comment about the convention centre and the “shark building” is all from Stuff, Reading use the image when they claim,


14 - 05 - 19

Here’s a plan:

Council shelves convention centre and indoor arena. Uses money to buy Reading site.
Knocks down building, builds park on building site and on car park site behind.
Builds park on car park between Wakefield and Cable (maybe with Chinese garden).
Builds pedestrian bridges over Wakefield and Cable.

Joins Courteney precinct to Te Papa / sea via open space with a nice vista down to the harbour.

14 - 05 - 19

That whole second convention centre lark was a complete mix-up. The investors’ presentation was of course referring to the the $179m convention centre being built over the road and how this would open up opportunities for Reading (such as the fact the new centre would have no car parking provision). How the reporters then alighted on the ‘shark’ warehouse as a site for second $179m convention centre operated by Reading is beyond me, especially considering that this site is owned by Reading’s rival, Event Cinemas (as in Embassy and as in QT Hotel).

As for the plan to develop their sites on Wakefield and Tory Streets, I suspect the shock of having to close down their main centre made Reading shift their focus completely to getting this back up and running before considering new developments. Before the centre was closed we had heard of various aspects of the redeveloped sites, such as a hotel, office space, supermarket, a new car parking building etc. all of which is probably still on the cards (the convention centre will make them more feasible).

There’s some renders here (again all off their presentations):

14 - 05 - 19

I’m sure my flight got diverted to that airport once, back in the 1980s.

14 - 05 - 19

Fantastic work all of you – thank you ! Thanks especially to Greenwelly and Tom for clearing up that gross misunderstanding. Stuff reporters have screwed up again – makes sense now! But hold on Tom – you say that Reading’s rival is Event Cinemas? I’m pretty sure that they are actually the same company – I know one of the ushers who has transferred from Reading to Embassy, so presumably the same employer?

Anyway – yes – good work. Not sure what Starkive is on about (the hole in Courtenay was never THAT big..!! ).
And Tom’s idea is a great idea that will unfortunately never fly, as there is a huge amount of money tied up in that. About 40 years too late, but still a nice idea.

15 - 05 - 19

No Event and Reading are definitely separate companies – the former is Australian and the latter American. They’re also much more than mere cinema operators, Reading is probably best described as a property developer and Event operates a number of hotel chains (like QT and Rydges). I’m also pretty sure that Reading has its Australian and NZ headquarters in Wellington, so I suspect that this would count in our favour in terms of what sort of development we’ll get.

Also after reading the investors’ presentation again, I now see where those hapless reporters tripped up: on the page about the new “Wellington City Council Convention & Exhibition Centre” there’s a background picture of the shark mural, but frankly I still can’t comprehend how the reporters came to the conclusions they did (in fact it’s almost disturbing). That same slide of the presentation also mentioned LGWM, maybe tomorrow we can expect to see an article in the paper about Reading International’s plan to tackle the Basin Reserve and build a second Mt VIc tunnel…