Theatre costs could soar
A PROPOSAL to turn the former Mid City cinemas into a multi-theatre complex might double in cost before plans are even drawn up.
The Auckland City Council says it is proceeding with caution in a bid to turn the cinemas into theatres.
The proposal, originally for three theatres at a cost of up to $30 million, could jump to about $50m and be reduced to only two theatres, says Auckland city councillor Greg Moyle.
“What we’re likely to get is not what we originally thought,” says Mr Moyle.
Last week the council asked the property’s receivers for a further two months to evaluate the costs of the project in a period of exclusive due diligence.
The council first registered its support in early May for the Auckland Theatre Company’s bid to build three theatres, one of which would be a substitute for the long-planned Q Theatre.
Mr Moyle says the council will continue to spend money investigating the complex, in particular its foundations, which might need to be replaced.
He says if that’s the case, the cost of the project could almost double again, and would probably force the council out of the development.
Though he says he is keen for a good outcome for the Auckland Theatre Company, he is concerned the cost will be too high.
There are also issues relating to the building’s Elliott St entrance, the fire egress and the body corporate which owns 40 spaces inside.
“It’s a complicated collection of moving parts and the more information you have on that, the better prepared you are.”
The council refused to say how much money had been spent investigating the proposal so far.
Auckland Theatre Company general manager Lester McGrath says the Mid City complex could solve a number of pressing problems relating to the city’s lack of theatres.
He says while the building has been neglected for years and faces many issues they will be moving forward “with our eyes open”.
Mr McGrath says the company has been working closely with the council and has been heartened by its interest and support.
Mr Moyle says the council is also still committed to supporting Q Theatre’s proposal to develop 305 Queen St into a flexi-form theatre.
In February this year, the Q Theatre group was warned by mayor John Banks after its proposed development increased from $17.8m to $21m.
After granting an advance of $200,000 to start resource consent work, Mr Banks said it would be “a very steep hill to climb” if the group came back looking for more money.
The group was granted resource consent for the development this year but is waiting for funding to be approved by the Lottery Special Projects Fund.
Dance Aotearoa NZ manager Susan Jordan thinks Mid City is a red herring.
Ms Jordan has been asked by the council about the professional dance community’s needs and says she still fully supports Q Theatre.
“Q Theatre has gone about it correctly and consulted widely. Auckland Theatre Company has only been on this for 18 months.”
She says there are huge accessibility problems with the Mid City venue.
Deputy mayor David Hay says at the time the council voted to support Q Theatre, Mid City wasn’t an option.
Jones Langs LaSalle property agent Mike Greer says the receivers for Mid City are expected to make a decision soon.