So in yesterday’s post, I told you I’d been into Christchurch to see the reopened Cashel Mall. Graceful old buildings damaged in the 6.3 February 22 earthquake have been demolished (590 so far with another 500 to go) and a new temporary open-air city mall has arisen. It’s really Cashel Container Mall because the 27 shops and cafes that have reopened are located within colourful shipping containers.

Apparently, around 10,000 people flocked to see the new Cashell Mall when it was reopened on October 29 by Prime Minister, John Key. Christchurch’s iconic department store, Ballantynes, also reopened in newly refurbished premises. Frankly, I think it’s an extraordinary feat. The quake ravaged central business and retail area was basically destroyed yet, a mere 8 months later, a new central city retail precinct is open for business.

I was very impressed with the landscaping, vibrantly painted shipping containers and spacious walkways. I really don’t think this new look Cashel Mall should be a temporary thing. I’d vote for keeping the shops and cafes in the converted shipping containers because it gives Christchurch such a new, contemporary look. The Avon River is just a short step away, so you still get the feel of the old Christchurch but the new mall gives a hint of how amazing Christchurch could look when its rebuilt.

I also think shoppers will return to the CBD area given the happy, spacious feel of the new mall. It’s light and airy – almost like the burden of the devastating quakes has been lifted off the city. Sure, there are still devastated areas in the Red Zone, particularly along Colombo Street where gaps now exist that used to be occupied by buildings. But you can see the tireless work that has been going on in what is called the Restart Project (short for Restart the Heart I believe).

I noticed a few shops missing such as Trade Aid, which used to be in Cashel Mall. So it seems that high end boutiques are now occupying Cashel Mall and this might be a clear signal that Christchurch will be quite a very different city in the future.

Honestly, I felt quite emotional after seeing the new Cashel Mall. To know that the city has suffered through so many quakes and that Cantabrians have died or lost homes – then to see a gorgeous new open air space – really made me think of how resilient Christchurch and its people are. I was very pleased to see the cafe in Ballantynes crowded – I had to wait for a seat. This shows that people aren’t afraid to return to the Garden City.

Westpac has opened up a mobile bank and painted its shipping container in Westpac red.

The new look Ballantynes.

Landscaping outside Ballantynes.

Inside Ballantynes - there are a number of concept stores inside and it's spacious and well-laid out.

People lining up at the cafe inside Ballantynes.

I finally managed to get a fabulous lamb sausage roll, carrot cake and cappuccino at Ballantynes.

You still see buildings with the EQC clearance painted on them following the February 22 quake.

The Hotel Grand Chancellor is being demolished floor by floor. Already the distinctive roof has gone.

The clever advertising of Ballantynes.

There are still some no-go zones.

And there is still plenty of rubble.