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A New Way of Tenancy


Michael Bell and Antony Gough at Little Andromeda

How do you make a city vibrant and bring people of all ages into the central city? Property developer Antony Gough may just have the answer.

And it has a lot to do with creativity.

It’s no secret that the central city, which was devastated in the 2011 earthquake, has struggled at times to attract people back into its streets, but over the past few years that has begun to change.

As well as having a focus on hospitality and retail, Antony Gough, knows that a thriving art community helps bring life back to a city. He’s put his money where his mouth is and has acted as patron to Michael Bell, the founder of Little Andromeda, who has been able to situate his theatre right in the heart of the city.

“I think it’s critical to have arts organisations in the city. The cheap premises are always on the periphery of the city but actually the city centre needs vibrancy,” Gough explains. “I’ve elected to give free premises to Little Andromeda for three years – that’s not normal – but you have to do this when you’re passionate.  As property owners I think it’s important that we show people in Christchurch that arts are important.”

That passion is not only benefitting the city as a creative place, but helping to benefit audiences by allowing Little Andromeda the breathing room to expand its offering.

“We were so grateful to be able to take over this space,” says Michael. “We want to be able to programme a year in advance rather than just programming a couple of months in advance because you don’t knowing whether you’re going to still be around – that’s really significant. You can do so much more with that kind of assurance. As a result we’ve started getting noticed around the country and that hopefully will make us more viable in the longer term.”

Property Manager Anna Liddell says while it’s an unusual set up – most property owners and landlords’ first concern is on whether the rent will be paid on time – the collaboration between Gough and Little Andromeda works in ways that matter more than the bottom line.

“It brings in a different demographic to the terrace and the city,” she explains.  “It brings people into the heart of the city and gives them the opportunity to explore different places.  We saw this after the earthquake with things like Dance-O-Mat – it brought people in and made them happy. Without art, a city becomes soulless.”

Having Little Andromeda situated in the heart of the Terrace, also contributes to the broader economy of the city.

“This location, being in the hub of the nightlife, has been great for our audiences, they can make a whole night of it,” says Michael. “When we first opened, there was a survey that showed that 92% of people who came to one of our shows then went on to spend money at a bar or café before or after the show.”

Anthony Gough agrees. ”I think a lot of landlords and property owners don’t understand that by giving out you actually get back ten times more.”

He has some advice for other landlords and property owners in the central city.

“If you have vacant premises be open to the idea of an artist or arts group using them free of charge or for minimal rent. I suggest that if property owners have an empty space, then give it to an artist – you get the positives that they bring people in to the area and enliven it. Even for a short time, it’s a better thing for everyone.”

The collaborative approach has worked in this instance and Michael, Anthony and Anna agree that more collaboration between city agencies, property owners and the creative sector could lead to an innovative new business model that would bring energy to the city and benefit both locals and visitors.

“More collaboration between council, building owners and artists would be really good for the city,” says Anna. “You can have your blinkers on and do what you’ve always done but until someone offers you a different perspective or offers you an opportunity you haven’t thought about before – then chances are you just don’t think about innovation and that’s what we need.”

Michael suggests that building owners, keen to explore this model, don’t expect a full business plan on their desks from artists though.

“Art works differently to business and there’s very rarely a business case for art, if you go in with a business frame of mind, or make it solely about a traditional landlord tenant relationship then it probably won’t work. You need to go in with an open mind and change that old thought pattern. Then you’ll get something cool.”

Changing that old thought pattern is proving to be a successful model in this case, one that not only contributes to the heartbeat of the city, but changes the fundamental relationship of inner city tenancies.

“It’s not just a financial transactional relationship,” explains Anna. “It makes the relationship much more connected and positive. It actually makes us as property managers more invested in what the tenants are doing and that’s a win/win for everyone.”


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