Yesterday marked the first step towards reopening the CBD, locked behind the red zone cordons since February. Only a very small step in actual space terms, just a couple of blocks, but psychologically a very important one, as those blocks make up Cashel Mall, so badly damaged in the earthquakes that only four or five buildings are still standing, but which has been transformed into a temporary shopping centre – what they’re calling a “pop-up mall”, with shops and cafes housed in converted shipping containers.
We’d planned to have a meetup to mark the occasion, but in the end it was just me and Rarsberry. Thanks to very last minute announcements about exactly when the mall was opening, we arrived at 10.30, two hours before the actual opening. That’s ok, though, we just retired to Coffee House for cake, then went for a walk around the gardens and released a few books.
The ducklings were out in force in the gardens, including these distinctively-coloured ones (they’re Paradise ducks):
Once we’d distributed most of my books to park benches (no catches yet, but there were a lot of people around, so it’s only a matter of time) we went back up to Cashel Street, just in time to hear the opening ceremony (no chance of seeing it, because the crowds were so dense we couldn’t get near enough).
After the obligatory speeches from politicians, they opened the gates and the crowds surged in. Within seconds all the shops were so full of people all we could do was peer in the windows, but it was still an exciting feeling to be back in the city again, even if it was completely unrecognisable (actually, it was really weird – all the seats, planters and paving is exactly the same as it was before the earthquakes, so if you focussed narrowly enough (or faced towards Ballantynes, which (on the Cashel Mall side at least) is unchanged) you could imagine you were back in the old mall. But then you turn your head slightly and you see all the gaps where the buildings used to be, and it’s so disorientating – I kept hearing snatches of conversation where people were trying to work out which shops used to be where.) A great atmosphere, though, and the container shops are really well done. And just so nice to be able to go into town again, even if it is just a handful of shops.