Two major hotel firms have bought into central Christchurch in multimillion-dollar deals in the Cathedral Square area.

One will repair, rebrand and reopen the boarded-up 179-room former Millennium building. The other will build a new 140-room hotel on a vacant piece of the old Press site nearby on Gloucester Street.

Both the existing and planned hotels are 14-storeys high.

The latest buyers are both New Zealand-owned businesses looking to expand nationwide hotel chains to Christchurch.

Southland businessman Geoff Thomson, owner of Distinction Hotels, is paying $8.6 million for the former Millennium building.

Engineers and architects are assessing the building. Thomson said they hoped to start repairs in September, when the sale is due for settlement. It is likely to be renamed Distinction Christchurch.

He said it is a building worth saving, a great location, and would create more foot traffic.

Brian Mansfield, spokesman for the building’s seller Jegual Investments Ltd of Singapore, said after lengthy insurance negotiations the building had been in limbo. Thomson had approached them with a number they couldn’t say no to.

Millennium and Copthorne Hotels New Zealand previously ran a five-star hotel from the building, but have relinquished their lease with no plans to return. The property has a $31.75m rating valuation.

The other hotel chain buying into the area is Auckland-based Sarin Group, which paid $1.5m for 160 Gloucester Street between Press House and Cathedral Junction. They plan to spend $25m to $30m building a four-star hotel on the vacant land.

Sarin Group is co-owned by chief executive Anuradha Sarin and her husband, Raman Sarin, who have nationwide hotel and events centre interests. Raman also heads VR Hotel Group, which has more than 1000 hotel rooms in New Zealand, the United States and India.

Raman said they would build the hotel designed and consented for the site in 2008 for previous owner Ganellen, with only small adjustments here and there.

Sarin Group is negotiating with a large international company to brand and operate the new hotel. The operator is already in Christchurch, but its identity remains confidential.

The hotel will take under two years to build. Raman said they were waiting for certainty about the delayed Christchurch Convention Centre to start.

The hotel would not have serviced apartments. Bar and dining facilities and parking would be included, and a vehicle entrance shared with Press House next door.