As Christchurch commemorates the fifth anniversary of the September 2010 earthquake today (Sep 4), a sign of resurgence was symbolised with the official opening of the city’s largest hotel – the 264-room BreakFree on Cashel.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, also Minister for Tourism and a Christchurch native, attended the launch proceedings completing a check-in at the tech-savvy hotel’s online kiosk and taking a tour of the final wing of brand new Executive Rooms on level 6 – so new that guests have yet to stay.
Prime Minister Key referenced record inbound tourism numbers of around 3 million and said with places to stay like the new Breakfree on Cashel, Christchurch will get a greater percentage of these visitors and expressed confidence that a hotel such as this would create huge demand for visitors coming to Christchurch.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel spoke to guests of a “city in transition and that occasions like this make us feel incredibly optimistic.” Mayor Dalziel went on to say that the “opening of this hotel symbolises the positive aspects of our city’s recovery and helps to increase the sense of momentum which I know we are feeling at the moment.”
With the Christchurch skyline featuring a combination of new developments and restoration of former buildings and office towers, Mayor Dalziel said the city should now feel that it has “moved beyond recovery to regeneration”.
“Developments like BreakFree on Cashel are crucial to inspire the confidence to invest in Christchurch and entice the return of visitors,” she said.
The Mayor also acknowledged the development’s insightful use of the building’s remains following the quake, in keeping with the city’s green rebuild philosophy.
“The greenest building is one that is already standing and I applaud the developers for their innovation.”
The NZD$30m project – designed by leading architect Richard Dalman and which also sees the hotel reach a Grade A seismic rating – embraces the city’s history with the interior showcasing recycled timber salvaged from Christchurch buildings demolished following the earthquakes, including timber from the old stands at the iconic Lancaster Park sports stadium.
The extensive refurbishment and redesign of the hotel has been underway since new owners – Auckland based Russell Property Group and an investment partner – purchased the property in January 2014. Christchurch based Dalman Architecture undertook the architectural and interior design elements.
BreakFree on Cashel will set a benchmark for the economy brand’s future CBD hotels said Michael Moret-Lalli, Director of Acquisitions for the hotel’s Australian based management company, Mantra Group:
“The hotel provides a glimpse of the future urban hotel design incorporating the important elements that make a great hotel – a clever use of space; comfortable quality beds; and seamless social spaces that integrate lifestyle and technology,” he said.
Guests are welcomed with modern design elements as soon as they enter the spacious lobby from Cashel Street that serves as a combined reception, lounge, bar and restaurant. The hub of the hotel, it’s a space where guests can connect with colleagues and friends via free WiFi.
The hotel incorporates some of the latest smart technology including high-definition and interactive digital entertainment systems enabling guests to mirror their smart phone on the TV screen via the Smartview App for social media interaction as well as music and videos through iTunes, YouTube or Netflix. Complimentary wireless key boards are available for loan from reception.
Hotel facilities include unique ‘pod style rooms’ as well as the addition of high quality traditional hotel rooms located on the top floor executive level. There is a contemporary interactive Café/Restaurant and Bar; breakfast room, guest lounge; conference room catering for up to 80 people and 2 boardroom style meeting spaces with capacity for 20 people; 24-hour reception; internet kiosk; guest laundry and onsite parking.
Buoyed by the recent announcement that China Southern Airlines will commence direct flights from Guangzhou to Christchurch in December and the growing infrastructure around the city, Breakfree on Cashel General Manager Graeme Back said: “BreakFree on Cashel adds vital room numbers to Christchurch’s accommodation offering for both the leisure and business market. It’s also boosted the local job market along the way, now employing 80 staff in the hotel.”