Coun­cil sup­ports the St James

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - CATRIN OWEN

The St James Theatre has been given a con­firmed fund­ing boost from coun­cil.

Auck­land Coun­cil agreed to pro­vide a se­cured sus­pen­sory loan of up to $15 mil­lion on July 21.

The fate of the theatre has been un­cer­tain since its doors shut in 2007 over safety con­cerns with an es­ti­mated cost of $66.6 mil­lion to re­store it. In 2014 the Li fam­ily pur­chased the old theatre plus sur­round­ing land and agreed St James would be re­stored and a multi-storey apart­ment block would be de­vel­oped on the rest of the land.

Queen Street’s St James is one of the last two early 20th cen­tury the­atres in Auck­land and is a sched­uled as a Cat­e­gory A her­itage build­ing.

Steve Bielby, prin­ci­pal trustee of Auck­land No­table Prop­er­ties Trust, says he is thrilled the coun­cil has con­firmed its com­mit­ment to see the build­ing re­stored.

‘‘This com­mit­ment will go a long way in help­ing get the St James back to its former glory and I look for­ward to work­ing along­side coun­cil over the com­ing weeks to fi­nalise the ar­range­ments of stage one of the restora­tion works.’’

Mayor Len Brown says restor­ing the St James is the num­ber one her­itage pri­or­ity Auck­lan­ders wanted to see hap­pen.

‘‘Auck­lan­ders are united in want­ing to pre­serve the his­toric theatre so that gen­er­a­tions in fu­ture can con­tinue to en­joy it,’’ he says.

Brown hopes the Govern­ment will also help to­wards the restora­tion costs.

Jacinda Ardern, Labour party’s her­itage spokesper­son has al­ways been sup­port­ive of sav­ing the St James and wel­comes the ad­di­tional fund­ing from coun­cil.

How­ever, she says the is­sue has al­ways been the sig­nif­i­cant short­fall in fund­ing.

In De­cem­ber 2015, Arts, Cul­ture and Her­itage MP Mag­gie Barry promised to in­ves­ti­gate po­ten­tial fund­ing from cen­tral govern­ment. Ardern asked Barry at a com­mit­tee hear­ing in June and Barry said no de­ci­sions had been made about the fund­ing and the cri­te­ria had changed.

David Hart­nell is an am­bas­sador for the St James Saviours and is ‘‘de­lighted’’ to hear of Auck­land Coun­cil’s ad­di­tional fund­ing to save the theatre.

The St James of­fi­cially closed in March and work is un­der way on the de­vel­op­ment of the apart­ments.

PHOTO: DAVID MACKAY

Steve Bielby is thrilled the coun­cil has con­firmed to see­ing the build­ing re­stored.

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