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Majority of feedback favours new park on Founders site

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Creating a multi-purpose park on the Founders Theatre site has captured the imagination of the Hamilton community.

In October and November 2020, Hamilton City Council asked the public for feedback on three options for the site:

Option 1: remove the theatre and create a basic park

Option 2: remove the theatre and create a multi-purpose park

Option 3: create something new from the theatre building and area around it.

All three options will retain the Dame Hilda Ross Memorial Fountain in front of the building.

Option 3 invited interested parties to submit an alternative to the two park options that fully or partly retains the theatre building. Submitters were asked to provide a business case and long-term funding proposal.

A report to today’s (20 November) Hearings and Engagement Committee noted that 505 submissions were received through Council’s Have Your Say engagement portal. The majority of submissions (84%) supported the multi-purpose park option, presented as Council’s preference.

This was the third round of community engagement on the Founders Theatre since it closed for safety reasons in 2016.

The Hearings and Engagement Committee heard verbal submissions from 16 individuals and groups.

Committee Chair Martin Gallagher said public interest in the Founders site and what might be done with it remained strong and the Committee heard a wide range of views at today’s meeting.

"People have presented us with a breadth of opinions and ideas through this process. It’s pleasing to get such a high volume of submissions and to see Hamiltonians taking the time and effort to share their views. Council will consider all the feedback very carefully," he said.

Mayor Paula Southgate also welcomed submissions and said Councillors must weigh up the future of the site carefully as they begin to pull together a draft Long-Term Plan for the city. That Plan will decided in June next year.

"There are big issues to consider and they include issues of affordability and practicality," she said. "Council doesn’t have any spare money in its back pocket so we need to think very carefully about which projects will deliver value as well as deliver on people’s aspirations for Hamilton."

Presenters to today’s meeting had a broad range of views on the future of the Founders site. Some who supported the multi-purpose park wanted to see play as a key component, including construction of a new skate park and outdoor exercise equipment.

Other ideas for the site included regeneration of the space using sustainable gardening principles and using it for festivals and other activities that would appeal to younger Hamiltonians.

Submitters who favoured retaining the theatre building suggested it had historical value and should be put to new use, with proposals including converting it into a community centre, arts, music, culture or a heritage hub or town hall.

Council will consider full feedback from the community at its meeting on 8 December.

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