Town hall 'jewel' escapes bulldozer

Last updated 05:00 12/06/2014
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Hutt News

MODERNIST JEWEL: Lower Hutt Town Hall.

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Lovers of Lower Hutt's 1950s town hall have rescued the modernist jewel from the wrecking ball.

The Hutt City Council voted 11-2 in favour of option 3F yesterday, saving the town hall and replacing the neighbouring horticultural hall with a purpose-built event centre.

Both halls are earthquake-prone and last November the council voted to demolish them.

An upswell of community effort to rescue the halls resulted in a reconsideration of their value. A working group headed by Deputy Mayor David Bassett was formed, and decided the $16.4m option 3F best served Lower Hutt's needs while preserving its heritage.

The decision was a victory for community lobby groups such as Heart of the Hutt and the Hutt Architects Small Practice, said Mark Leicester, from Heart of the Hutt.

"We're delighted. We have to pay tribute to the community mobilising itself in favour of heritage," he said.

"The town hall is the jewel in the crown of that historic area. We really do hope that it's an opportunity to rejuvenate and regenerate the civic centre."

Councillors Campbell Barry and Max Shierlaw voted for option 3E+, bowling both halls. That option would be $5.9m cheaper, which was a deal-breaker for Barry. The money could be much better spent in needy suburbs like Moera, Naenae, Stokes Valley or Wainuiomata, he said.

Councillor Chris Milne, however, said the extra cost was far outweighed by the benefit of saving a piece of history. "In 10 or 15 years, nobody is going to say: ‘Gosh, if we'd only saved $6m.' "

Shierlaw raised a range of concerns with option 3F's design, including its acoustics and lack of natural light, kitchen facilities and a green room.

"We're deciding on a form and hoping the function will follow. It's not going to work; it's destined to fail from the outset," he said.

Bassett said detailed design work was yet to be done and the proposed layout could change after feedback from event organisers.

The council's biggest botchup in 25 years was refurbishing its War Memorial Library in 2002 for $5m rather than building a new one, Shierlaw said.

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- The Dominion Post


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