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Christchurch's post-industrial hospitality scene

13 March 2018

As a post-manufacturing city, Christchurch is full of industrial-style buildings – mostly along old railway routes. As the city rebuilds, attention is turning to these hidden gems for hospitality purposes.

Get the lowdown from the people behind Welles Street, 5th StreetThe Space Academy and XCHC below and keep a look out for other post-industrial hospo spots in our city, including The Anchorage, Supreme Supreme and Grain Coffee & Eatery.

Welles Street

Welles Street is a bar accommodated in a building originally constructed as a grocery distribution centre. Its owner, Thomas Newfield, says the north-facing beauty was exactly what he was looking for.

“Industrial buildings and sites are becoming the new playgrounds for urban dwellers,” he says. “This creative approach to urban regeneration has been copied across most major cosmopolitan cities around the globe and with the current landscape in Christchurch, it was so refreshing to find such a gem.”

Thomas says the reason he loves the building isn’t merely practical – it’s also aesthetic. “The beautiful lofty ceilings, existing trusses, exposed brick and concrete floors are eye catching. I still crane my neck to the rafters and am in awe each day when I walk into work.”

Welles Street is found in 'South Town', a new precinct full of post-industrial galleries and studios, shops, bars and cafes.

5th Street 

The owners of popular Sydenham café Hello Sunday are opening a restaurant directly opposite the café and in doing so are giving a “cool post-industrial building a new, fun life”.

5th Street, due to open in mid-April, is owned by Jonathan Spark, Chris Penny, Yasmeen Clark, Sam Stewart and Max Perry.

Jonathan says he and other owners of Hello Sunday were invited to consider several other options for a new venture but none fitted.

That’s until their neighbour mentioned he was vacating his building.

“We immediately saw its potential under its heavily industrialised interior,” Jonathan says. “There was an enjoyable challenge in drawing out this potential from a very basic 1950s warehouse.”

He suspects the building was once used as a manufacturing warehouse for Gallagher, a company that pioneered New Zealand's first electric fencing system. “We discovered thousands of flatpacked Gallagher strainer fencing boxes in the attics once we started pulling down the ceiling.”

The last 20-plus years have seen it being used by Peter Rabbit, a fruit and vegetable supplier that Hello Sunday uses.

Work is under way to get the building ready for 5th Street’s opening.

Jonathan says they’re leaving aspects of the breeze block walls, trusses and old concrete floor, which carry the history of the building.

The Space Academy

Richard Barnacle, co-owner of The Space Academy, says he and his business partner chose the premises as it was as close to the CBD as they could afford.

“Proximity to a couple of our favorite places – The Lotus Heart and Darkroom – also helped us decide.”

The building, which is occupied by Kadett Café and Doki during the day, was nice and light and, once earthquake strengthened, “full of possibility”.

It was once home to an auto electricians workshop and Richard says it was also used for a woodworking business and a plumbers at other times.

The building is “built to handle stuff”, he says, which helps when it comes to hosting everything from live gigs to indoor skateboarding and talks.


Camia Young looked at more than 100 buildings before coming across the future home of XCHC, which launched in 2014 as a creative hub offering space to foster connectedness and collaboration between artists.

“We needed somewhere that would attract the public and we also needed somewhere that artists would be attracted to.”

An architect by training, Camia says she tends to see buildings and consider future use and the psychology of space.

As well as practical requirements such as a large open space with the right number of exits and a certain structural code, she was looking for something that felt a bit edgy and would “draw people in”.

The building she settled on was, at different times in its history, a panel beater, industrial paint factory and pickle factory.

“It’s amazing how many people show up and tell me what was there before. You can tell you have a special building when people have a strong memory of it.”

Camia says it required a certain amount of vision. “If anybody saw that building when I saw [it] I don’t know if they would have seen what I saw.”

But it worked.

XCHC brings together activities that are usually separated – production (in the workspace), showcasing (in the gallery space) and networking (through socialising at the bar and café).

“By bringing [these aspects] together you have an overlap and it is in that overlap that community builds.”

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