Music centre kick-starts arts precinct

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 06:44 13/06/2014
Music Centre of Christchurch
Artwork by Wilkie and Bruce Architects

ARTIST'S IMPRESSION: The planned design for the Music Centre of Christchurch, which will include a 350-seat concert hall.

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Christchurch's performing arts precinct has been kick-started with the Government committing to buying more land for the project and promising a vibrant arts community in the heart of the city.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday announced a $12.5 million Music Centre would be the first project to start construction in the precinct at the end of this year.

The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and the Court Theatre are in negotiations to locate facilities in the precinct, but have not yet signed up.

The Christchurch City Council has about $30.5m to build a new Court Theatre and an administration, rehearsal and storage facility for the CSO.

The CSO could have about $3.5m to contribute to the project.

The precinct encountered problems in May, when the Government stopped buying land for the block bounded by Gloucester, Armagh, New Regent and Colombo streets over concerns the council's commitment to restoring the Town Hall could compromise the project.

Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) director Warwick Isaacs yesterday said acquisition of the remaining land for the precinct would now resume.

"We wanted to ... see what land we would need to purchase before we moved forward again."

The CCDU had written to the remaining landowners about its plans to buy their sites, Isaacs said.

The council was originally developing the plans as part of a cost-sharing agreement with the Government.

The CCDU has now become involved, drawing up concept plans for how the block would be shared by the three potential tenants.

The new plans include public space linking three performing arts buildings and a privately built car park next to the Isaac Theatre Royal in Gloucester St, between New Regent St and Colombo St.

About $16.2m of land on the block had already been bought by Government, covering most of the land apart from about three or four plots.

The Music Centre will be located on an already-secured piece of land in Armagh St.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said negotiations were continuing with the Court Theatre and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

"These great new performing arts facilities will be connected by a public open space and serviced by a new, privately built car parking building."

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the project represented "the life and the soul that will be restored to our city".

"Things were put on hold when the Government said they wouldn't proceed with the land. Now they have come up with something that works.

"This is a way of ensuring that we will work together on it."

The land bought by the Government may be leased to the council for a minimal rent to enable it to make deals with the CSO and Court Theatre.

Key said the Music Centre agreement was a "significant step forward" for the precinct and central city.

"I imagine it will be a vibrant and popular place to come to."

Music Centre director Bronwyn Bijl said it had about $10 million for the project, which included insurance funds and a $2.5m grant from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust. About $2m still needed to be raised for the project.

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The Music Centre will lease the land from the Crown and has a right to buy at a future date.

"This is the most exciting opportunity for Christchurch.

"It is a great plan. I look forward to the others joining us. It would be great to have everyone there."

PLANNED TIMELINE (Source: Cera)

Winter 2015:

Bus interchange operational

Early 2016:

East frame begins development

Innovation precinct established

Avon River Park Precinct completed

Early winter 2016:

Earthquake memorial completed

Summer 2017:

Retail precinct developing

Winter 2017:

Convention centre opens

Central city library opens

End of 2017:

Metro sports facility opens

Justice and emergency precinct complete

Health precinct complete

South frame completed

- The Press

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