The last of the cordon fencing and army-controlled checkpoints which once locked residents out of Christchurch will be lifted this weekend.
More than two years ago, a magnitude-6.3 earthquake hit the city, killing 185 people and injuring many more.
The city is now slowly rebuilding itself, with a $4 billion plan for a more compact city.
But some city investors say Christchurch may have already missed its best opportunity to rise from the rubble.
Property investor Lisle Hood lost 11 of his 16 factories and warehouses he developed as a hub of bars and cafes.
He says as a result of the earthquake, property owners have been unnecessarily locked out of the rebuilding process.
"The reality is there's a lot of property owners [who] have already left this city," he said.
"They've taken millions out of the city - they're not going to be involved in rebuilding."
But others are more optimistic about the redevelopment plans, including the development of a stadium and convention centre.
Roger Sutton, CEO of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, says with substantial development due to get underway next year, people will be attracted back to the area.
"If we build something better than we did before, I don't think it's going to be that hard," he said.
New Zealanders such as Sarah Niu and Steve Woods, who moved to Christchurch to run a boutique hotel, are gambling that the rebuilding plan will be a success.
"It's not often the city gets rebuilt so it should be an amazing opportunity," he said.