Groups make colour­ful plea to keep hall

Hamilton Press - - FRONT PAGE - LIBBY WIL­SON

They came to Hamil­ton City Coun­cil in their tu­tus or in match­ing team jack­ets.

Dancers, par­ents, and bosses of Drury Lane Dance & Per­for­mance asked coun­cil­lors not to sell their base, Old St Peter’s Hall in Vic­to­ria Street.

A sale of the her­itage-listed build­ing is pro­posed in the coun­cil’s draft long-term plan.

The ad­join­ing ten­ant in the build­ing, the Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau, is also against the plan.

Dancers and their fam­i­lies de­scended on the city coun­cil cham­bers on Tues­day af­ter­noon last week, fill­ing the pub­lic gallery seats, aisles, and crowd­ing at the door­way.

Please don’t sell the dance hub we call home, Drury Lane Dance & Per­for­mance co-owner Kerry Davis said.

The base of 28 years is just right for dance, she said, be­cause of its wooden floor, high ceil­ing and lack of noise re­stric­tions.

Stu­dents can walk or bus to re­hearsals and the hall’s used for prac­tice by other groups, in­clud­ing body­builders and cheer­lead­ers.

Davis and her mother - Aileen Downey, the other owner - have each earned a civic award through their dance-sec­tor work, she said.

The school op­er­ates un­der vol­un­teer-run Waikato Dance Per­for­mance Trust, which has teams per­form at com­mu­nity events, such as the Hamil­ton Christ­mas Pa­rade, char­ity fundrais­ers and Re­lay for Life.

Stu­dents from an in­ter­me­di­ate per­for­mance team asked coun­cil to keep the place where they grew up and formed a dance fam­ily.

It’s easy to walk to town if they need some­thing, they said, and it’s a place where they can in­ter­act with New Zealand chore­og­ra­phers.

The Hamil­ton Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau op­er­ates from the ad­join­ing build­ing and has a 255-sig­na­ture pe­ti­tion to back its view.

‘‘The present lo­ca­tion, it’s a hum­ble, small house. It’s wel­com­ing and it has a friendly feel for our clients,’’ board mem­ber Su­san Har­wood said.

This lo­ca­tion of 26 years is a con­trast to the anony­mous feel of govern­ment de­part­ments many clients deal with, she said.

It would be hard to find a site as cen­tral, recog­nis­able, close to rel­e­vant ser­vices, and with nearby park­ing and meet­ing space, like at St Peter’s Cathe­dral.

Sell­ing the cur­rent bureau build­ing was a last-minute pro­posal which wasn’t well con­sulted on, board mem­ber and Uni­ver­sity of Waikato stu­dent Steven Drys­dale said.

Coun­cil would make $740,000 from sell­ing the hall, but each year vol­un­teers give about $240,000 in free labour to the city, he said.

Mayor An­drew King said he would cir­cu­late a let­ter from the Angli­can Church which con­firmed it was the party in­ter­ested in buy­ing the build­ing.

The Old St Peter’s Hall was built in 1893 and, along with the ad­join­ing Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau build­ing, was pur­chased by the coun­cil from St Peter’s Cathe­dral in 1990.

Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau shares the site with Drury Lane Dance School, which oc­cu­pies the hall.

The build­ings are reg­is­tered as Cat­e­gory 2 her­itage build­ings with Her­itage New Zealand.

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