Details of Wellington Town Hall's $58m-plus rebuild revealed video

Kevin Stent/Fairfax NZ

New documents have revealed the state-of-the art earthquake strengthening and refit of Wellington's 113-year-old Town Hall will likely cost almost $60 million, with construction unlikely to start until 2018.

Wellington City Council has put out tender documents outlining its expectations for bringing the building up to 100 per cent of code and converting it into a "music hub" for the NZ Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) and Victoria University's School of Music.

Construction is expected to take 33 months, and while a start date is not yet known the documents point to December 20 as the deadline for finalising detailed designs.

Wellington's Town Hall is in for a $58m-plus refit, which will transform it into a music hub for the NZSO and Victoria ...
ROSS GIBLIN/ FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington's Town Hall is in for a $58m-plus refit, which will transform it into a music hub for the NZSO and Victoria University.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said basing the NZSO inside the Town Hall would offer the university's music school something no other music school could.

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But the estimated budget of $58m could yet climb higher. "It will be expensive," Lester warned.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester inside the Town Hall, behind him is the hole left by the massive 4000-pipe organ that was ...
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester inside the Town Hall, behind him is the hole left by the massive 4000-pipe organ that was removed for renovation.

The NZSO and university will pay for the fitout of their respective areas.

The documents reveal the Town Hall will also become Wellington seat of local government once again with the mayor's office returning to the building and the original debating chamber seeing new life as a council chamber and music school venue.

The prized auditorium will be restored to near original condition with a larger stage. But what happens behind the scenes will be modern technology.

The 4000-pipe organ inside Wellington's Town Hall, which was removed in 2013, will also be reinstalled.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

The 4000-pipe organ inside Wellington's Town Hall, which was removed in 2013, will also be reinstalled.

A granite stone plinth will be removed while base isolating technology – the same innovation that saw virtually no damage at Te Papa during the recent Kaikoura quake – is installed beneath.

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In the bowels of the building, there is a design option left open for the NZSO to build recording facilities, including a control room, an isolation room and a producer's suite.

The native tongue-in-groove wooden floor of the auditorium will be removed, then stuck back on to a new concrete floor.

The Town Hall on Peace Day in July 1919, 15 years after it was built.
ALEXANDER TURNBULL LIBRARY 1/2-090964-F

The Town Hall on Peace Day in July 1919, 15 years after it was built.

Virtually all aspects of the interior, from the balcony floor to choir stalls, pressed-metal ceiling panels, and house lights, will be refurbished.

While most of the construction will involve restoring the building to its early 20th-century heyday – albeit with the likes of some modern lighting and ventilation – architects will be able to add some 21st-century flair.

"New facades are to be constructed to Wakefield St and [Civic Square]," the tender document says. The facades would have glass entry lobbies.

Crowds inside the Town Hall for a protest meeting to discuss the All Blacks' 1960 tour of South Africa.
ALEXANDER TURNBULL LIBRARY EP/1959/2789-F

Crowds inside the Town Hall for a protest meeting to discuss the All Blacks' 1960 tour of South Africa.

The massive 4000-pipe organ, which was removed in 2013, will also be reinstalled.

Victoria University has yet to fully commit to the plans. A spokesman refused to be interviewed, but a written statement said the university was continuing to negotiate with the council and should have enough "clarity" on the deal in the coming months to seek conditional or final approval from its governance body.

The Town Hall, built in 1904 and considered to have some of the best acoustics in the world, was shut in November 2013 for quake strengthening. It is thought to be somewhere between 20 and 25 per cent of code.

But work was halted three months later when the cost ballooned from $43 million to $60m.

At the time, property developer Ian Cassels said the building was a "white elephant" that was costing ratepayers too much, and he questioned whether it should be demolished instead.

On Thursday, Cassels said he still did not think strengthening the Town Hall was the right move.

It was "a lovely old building" but Wellingtonians needed to weigh up the costs and benefits of the project, including the value of the prime Wakefield St site, he said.

 - Stuff

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