Opened in 1932, New Regent Street is Christchurch’s only complete heritage streetscape.(Category 1 Heritage listed Buildings)It is also known as, arguably, New Zealand’s most beautiful street. With beautiful Spanish Mission architecture, and a distinctive pastel colour scheme, it’s long been popular with locals and tourists alike.
In 1986, a one-way restriction was imposed for driving on New Regent Street. This measure was in place for only eight years before the street was closed to traffic in 1994 and turned into a pedestrian mall in preparation for the reintroduction of the Christchurch tram. Originally, it was intended for the tram to go back and forth along Worcester Street, but the plans were changed and a loop created, with Rolleston Avenue, Armagh Street, New Regent Street and the John Britten property known as Cathedral Junction making up the route. The tram began operating on 4 February 1995.
The buildings sustained damage during the 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The whole central city was cordoned off, and the public did not have access. Repairs to the street and buildings were carried out by Naylor Love Construction Limited for NZ $3,000,000, with Fulton Ross Team Architects providing the architectural inputs. New Regent Street was set to be reopened in December 2012, but this was delayed to February 2013, and then March, and it finally did open on Saturday, 20 April 2013. The Press described the opening as an “anti-climax”, as only five of the shops were open for business. A further fourteen shops had been tenanted but were not ready, while tenants for seven shops had yet to be found. Five of the buildings, all owned by Helen Thacker, had not been repaired or earthquake strengthened. Two of those buildings were classed as earthquake-prone, and after months of negotiations by Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority staff, the owner agreed to have those two buildings earthquake strengthened. This allowed for safety fences to be removed from New Regent Street in December 2013.
The tram began operating again in November 2013 on a limited route from New Regent Street to Worcester Boulevard; the tracks in Armagh Street had to be repaired still. In November 2014, the pre-earthquake loop reopened. Some New Regent Street retailers claim that half their custom comes from tourist arriving there by tram.
The Christchurch City Council has recently installed lighting on the street on the buildings so that the buildings are as beautiful in the evening as they are in the daytime
Amongst the history and heritage there is a range of independent stores, services, bars, cafes and restaurants offering goods and services and experiences not found anywhere else.