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Public to have say on mid-sized theatre options - DCC

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Dunedin City Council is preparing to consult the public on options for the development of a mid-sized theatre in the city.

Councillors at a non-public Council meeting in December voted to include $21.5 million for the project in the draft 10-year plan, which is to be consulted on over the next few months.

The funding covers the potential cost of redeveloping the Athenaeum - in Dunedin’s Octagon - into a mid-sized theatre, which was identified by Councillors as their preferred option at the December meeting.

An alternative option, also being considered at the request of Councillors, would see the Mayfair Theatre in South Dunedin redeveloped instead.

Councillors have included $17 million for development costs, and a further $4.5 million for operating costs, in the draft 10-year plan.

Operating costs are expected to be partially offset by revenue and external grants, should the redevelopment proceed.

The plan is subject to public consultation beginning in late March, followed by further Council deliberations, before the plan is finally signed off in June.

DCC General Manager Community Services Simon Pickford says the development of options for a mid-sized theatre follows the closure of the Fortune Theatre and a study by the DCC and Creative New Zealand examining the future provision of performing arts in Dunedin.

As part of this work, views were sought from mana whenua, the arts sector, funding organisations and other stakeholders.

The study has identified the need for a mid-sized theatre with 350-450 seats in Dunedin, to plug the gap between the Regent Theatre and smaller venues and cater for the needs of many professional touring performing arts companies.

A variety of associated facilities are also needed, including retail, food and beverage facilities, front and back of house spaces, studio spaces and an artists’ hub providing low-cost workspaces.

Providing all such facilities on one site is not considered viable at present, so the focus is on delivering core facilities - including an auditorium, front and back of house spaces and food and beverage facilities - for now.

Other facilities could potentially be developed elsewhere in future, as part of a network of sites, as space and funding becomes available.

In addition to the Athenaeum and the Mayfair Theatre, DCC staff also shortlisted two other sites as potential options for a mid-sized theatre - Sammy’s and the former Fortune Theatre site at 231 Stuart Street.

Both were ruled out for a variety of reasons, including the cost of redeveloping the larger auditorium space available at Sammy’s into a mid-sized theatre, together with other constraints, and the inadequate space available at 231 Stuart Street.

Instead, the focus is on a partnership project with Zeal Land Ltd, which owns the Athenaeum, or alternatively working with the Mayfair Theatre Charitable Trust to redevelop their theatre, which may involve purchasing the building.

Both are heritage buildings and would need big changes to make them fit for purpose, but redeveloping the Athenaeum would support plans to develop the wider Octagon area into a creative precinct.

Redeveloping the Mayfair Theatre would support efforts to regenerate South Dunedin and would be a boost for businesses in the area.

The draft 10-year plan will be considered by Councillors next week, followed by public consultation beginning on 23 March.

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