We are open!

The all new improved Blackwell’s Department Store is officially open. It’s the next big step in one of many we’ve already made, with more planned.

The new store features two new retail spaces, an upgrade to the surviving spaces from the old store, some wonderful tenants sharing the building with us, a coffee shop preparing to open on one corner, a nice new West entrance, and customer parking.

Our showroom spaces are full with new stock in all departments, including clothing, shoes, homeware, gifts, fishing & hunting, curtains, bedware, and carpets, so come visit us and check out the new store. We look forward to seeing you.

The all new Blackwell's Department Store in November 2013
The all new Blackwell’s Department Store in November 2013, image courtesy of Tonic Design

September tour

We took our favourite website mates for a tour of the new building over the weekend. Here’s what we showed them.

From the West side the new entrance is looking good. The lift is in and the stairway to the first floor is operational.

The upstairs spaces are really looking good, with the gib work almost completed and carpet laid. We’ve leased one space and there is one excellent small office area on the South side and the Nor-west upstairs corner still available.

BlackwellsRebuild-7Sept13 (4)

The view from the upstairs corner office is great, looking out over the bridge and the Kaiapoi river.

Downstairs, the cafe area is going to be a great space for a coffee, and we can’t wait to start filling the new showroom with stock.


August update

With a hint of Spring in the air, it’s time for an update. Construction has been going well, and as the month ended the scaffolding started to be removed from around the outside of the building. It’s been quite exciting seeing the building skin revealed from behind the steel and boards.

Inside lots of gib has been going up and finished. We’ve also been looking at new stock for the upcoming season, taking the opportunity to top up departments that we’ve had to reduce back due to lack of space. Will be great to see the store filled up again and we can’t wait to show off the new stock in our new surroundings.

Thanks to the Mallinsons for sharing the third and fourth photos above too.

New windows going in

The new windows are going in on the top floor now. This is pretty cool, because it means the building will be weather-tight soon and we can begin to complete the inside.

The roof is on

It is such a relief to get the roof on, not just because with Winter here it’s great to have things water tight at last, but also because it’s such a milestone for us and the builders.

Now we can see the internal walls in being gibbed up and rooms start to take shape.

Autumn work

The long hot summer continued while the builders forged on with the re-build. Bushnell Builders crew are hard at work, making it happen in rain or shine.


First floor framing

The steel framing for the first floor and the beginning of the roof is going in now. The plan is to look for tenants for the first floor and it’s great see the spaces beginning to form up there.

It’s going to be pretty exciting to have tenants and other businesses working with us in the same building too. We’ve included a shot from the first floor so you can see what the view will look like for the lucky corner tenant.

We have a first floor

Re-build progress is steaming along, and now we have the beginnings of a first floor and an enclosed space downstairs. It’s all starting to look like a building.


First view from the first floor

With the first floor panels going in there was a chance to nip up and get the first view from the first floor today. Our Laura took these photos on her phone, along with an excellent panorama view of the bottom floor.

Blackwells buys shares in steel

Incredible amount of steel in the new foundations
Incredible amount of steel in the new foundations

It feels like we’ve taken out shares in the steel industry at the moment. An incredible amount of steel is going into the new foundations, as the builders prepare for concrete footings to be poured.

This is all good of course, and thoroughly re-assuring. The new building will be so strong that the only at-risk items will soon be the stock and staff.

Just in case we ever do get another shake we’re thinking of blue-tacking everything down in the shop and staff will wear velcro on their shoes to hold them in place!

We’re adding more images to our Photo Gallery, so you can see progress.

The rebuild begins!

Well, at last we can celebrate the beginning of the rebuild. It is happening.

Some months back a digger turned up and started drilling test pile holes. These had to be driven very deep to ensure we will have the stability we need for a new two-storey building in the site.

But that didn’t feel like real building had started until the boys from Bushnell Builders started in the foundations a few weeks ago.

The first thing they had to do was put a false wall in side the existing past of the shop so that the temporary outside wall could be removed. We had to shuffle things around inside the store, which reduced our space a little, but our staff and customers seem to have coped well with the ever-changing interior of our shop.

The next steps were drilling in the 6m screw piles required to meet code and provide a secure foundation for the building.

After that footings were dug, reinforcing steel added, and the concrete foundations poured for the three shear walls. Now THAT feels like a building has started.

We’ll post updated photos as the work continues, but better still, come down and see us. We’re still open and we’d love to see you. And you can have sneaky peek through the hoardings to see what the builders are up to.

You can peek through the hoardings whenever you like



Press Release: Opening date set for iconic store

Opening date set for iconic Blackwell’s Department Store

At last there’s an answer to Kaiapoi’s most-asked question: “When will Blackwell’s be rebuilt?” The new, contemporary version of the town’s iconic department store will be open by September 2013.

The building’s 68 screw piles were drilled in this week, with partial demolition of existing buildings on the site completed earlier. The site is now ready for shear end wall foundations to be laid.

Blackwell’s, established in 1871, is one of the oldest department stores in New Zealand. The new store will open on or near Blackwell’s 141st anniversary.

The 7.1 quake on 4 September 2010 quake damaged the front, 1921 part of the building, including its iconic logo. This part was demolished the same day for safety reasons. The business operated from three separate locations until it could return to what remained of the building at the corner of Raven Quay and Williams St. Although trade has been affected, all Blackwell’s staff have retained their jobs since the 2010 quake.

Chartered Professional Engineer Warren Lewis from Christchurch firm Lewis & Barrow says the building has been designed for all up-to-the-minute design codes, Government guidelines, and the Structural Engineering Society New Zealand design guidelines. The new building will provide extra strength to the existing single-storey buildings so they could be brought up to 100% of the strength of a new building.

Warren Lewis says the building has been detailed to seismic loads that are 3x present design loads, to resist an earthquake with a return period in excess of 6000 years.

Brothers Michael and Andrew Blackwell, the fifth generation of Blackwells to manage the store, worked with Christchurch architects Wilkie + Bruce on a design retaining the grace of the old building, but with a contemporary feel. There will be a larger floor area and a café. The first floor will provide much-needed commercial floor space, with excellent Kaiapoi River views.

Christchurch-based Bushnell Builders has been chosen for the build.

Michael says over the past two years he’s been approached almost daily by people wanting to know when the rebuild will begin. There have been many complex geotechnical, engineering, consent and insurance issues to work through.

“It’s very exciting now to see rapid progress day by day, and to finally begin our store’s redevelopment two long years after September 2010.

“It’s a time we would like to forget, but it’s the lessons learnt from this time that make us more resilient.”

Andrew says: “This will be a nice, modern building that will still look contemporary in 50 years. We want it to have a unique feeling and atmosphere, and provide some really memorable shopping.

“Since the concept plans were made public a year ago, the café idea in particular has gained huge public support and interest.”

Michael stresses it will be business as usual at Blackwell’s this Christmas during the rebuild.

“We will continue to trade from the unaffected part of the store, offering a good range of products from all our departments, so please come down to see the building work in progress, and our great range in-store at the same time.”

For more information, please phone:

Michael Blackwell                                             Warren Lewis                        Alun Wilkie

029 770 2669  / 03 327 8029                                027 432 4599                          021 379 779

New ground floor plan

Planning work for the new store is going well, and working with our  architects Wilkie + Bruce we’ve submitted plans for building consent with the council now.

Today we’d like to share the floor plan for the proposed new ground floor of Blackwell’s, showing the new areas and the potential tenancy areas. Click the image to see it a little larger.

Blackwells Dept Store - proposed ground floor

As you can see the retail area will be slightly different compared to the old store, with the inclusion of areas for two tenants on the ground floor. We’re hoping one of them will be a café, but that is yet to be confirmed. We feel the re-organisation of the space will still give us ample capacity for retailing, along with better located staff and office areas. Huge thanks to architects Wilkie + Bruce for providing the images you see here.


New store designs revealed

Blackwell’s are pleased to release the illustrations of our proposed new building. There will be exciting new features, including office space above the store and a space on the corner for a café.

Designed by architects Wilkie + Bruce, and supported by Lumleys, the new building is planned to be stated two years from the day of the first earthquake in September 2010.

Blackwells proposed store - Eastern-elevation
Blackwell’s proposed store – Eastern-elevation

Above is a view of the proposed building design, as conceived by architects, Wilkie + Bruce. The front will retain the Blackwell’s logo on the front corner, as the old store used to.

Below is a view of the North end of the building, where we hope to have space for a café.

Blackwell's proposed new building cafe view
Blackwell’s proposed new building showing the corner café

Much of this is still a work-in-progress, and we will post updates on this website as news becomes available.