A community circus group is injecting new life into the Campbell Free Kindergarten building after it lay empty for more than two decades.
The historic kindergarten became an eyesore of Victoria Park after years of neglect but was restored by the NZ Transport Agency to house stand-by generators for the Victoria Park Tunnel on its upper floor.
The ground floor was returned to the former Auckland City Council and the Waitemata Local Board voted in July this year to lease the space to the Circability Trust.
The trust, formed in 2012, provides circus workshops for people of all ages and abilities including, disabled people, children and people from the deaf and mental health communities.
Trust co-ordinator Jeanette Pinker says the group is thrilled to have a home in the central city.
"It's really going to make a difference. The high profile of this building is really going to help and to know that people really believe in what we're doing and are going to do is great."
The trust will lease the building for the next five years.
As part of its bid, Circability partnered with the Toi Ora Live Arts Trust and Hohepa Auckland with the aim of developing a social arts hub which is available for the community and artists to hire.
"The thing I love about this whole set-up is I've lived around this area in Ponsonby for almost 30 years and it's so great to see a building that was so derelict come to life," Ms Pinker says.
"People haven't actually seen it fully come to life yet but people stop every day to ask what's going on."
All three groups involved will use the space, which has been painstakingly restored to reflect its former glory.
The 102-year-old brick building was Auckland's first kindergarten and is protected under council and New Zealand Historic Places Trust bylaws.
It has stood empty since the 1980s and had badly deteriorated and was damaged by vandalism.
Circability will provide circus workshops, Toi Ora will develop creative art programmes and Hohepa will run art and fitness classes and work training programmes for disabled people.
The circus workshops give participants confidence and pride, Ms Pinker says.
"They are so proud of what they can do because they know that not everyone can, it takes skill."
Circability Trust project developer Frances Kelliher says the next step is fitting out the centre with equipment and furnishings to offer more classes.
"It's a real honour to be given this opportunity. We are offering a couple of classes straight away so people can come and have a look or even better get involved."
For more information visit communitycircus.co.nz.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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