A conference centre with a 250-seat auditorium will be built in Marton as Elim Church goes ahead with plans to demolish the old White Hart Hotel.
The earthquake-prone building on the corner of Broadway and Lower High St in Marton, areas of which are already closed because of a health risk, will be demolished by the end of the year.
The building was built in 1913 after a fire destroyed the initial hotel built on the site in 1866.
Elim Church pastor Graham Moore said that from the time the church bought the property in 1999 it was always the intention there would be some demolition and rebuilding of the church.
"To make it fully earthquake-proof would be more than what it is going to cost to redevelop," he said.
"It's always sad to see history go but progress comes at a cost. We need to be able to move forward."
As well as the auditorium, the two-storey building replacing the hotel will have a modern kitchen to allow caterers to come in during conferences.
It would have several rooms built for the church and community groups. Wall dividers that could be rolled back would allow the size of those rooms to be altered to fit the purpose.
The building would also be fitted with modern communication equipment, including wifi in each of the rooms, Moore said.
The site may sit empty for a while after demolition, but long term it would be a great thing for the town, Moore said. "The church have always provided a service to the committee whether it's through dance classes or the community organisations that use it, or the shops out the front. We'll still be providing service but the focus of the service is going to change."
Moore said the central location of Marton could attract conferences of 150 people, and when it did they would bring foot traffic and spending to the town centre.
"It's a major step for us. In some ways we could have just carried on and continued to pour money into this place but it doesn't increase the quality of this place in the long term. The heating has always been an issue and even though the layout works for us I think the new building will work a lot better."
Designs included a private car parking area along the front of Broadway and Lower High St which could be used as a potential market area for the town, Moore said.
Marton Barber owner Lynley Means, who works out of the current building, said the business would shift to the old optician's building on High St once demolition works began.
- Manawatu Standard
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