Theatre costs could soar

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Jo­ce­lyn Rein

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.

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