Theatre restoration spinoff for traffic flow

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2013

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Restoration of the Isaac Theatre Royal in central Christchurch could mean Gloucester St will soon be reopened to two-way traffic.

The facade of the historic theatre is being propped with containers, paving the way for the thoroughfare to completely reopen.

Gloucester St was reopened to east-west traffic last June.

Work is continuing on the theatre, which is expected to be restored and reopened by the second quarter of next year.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority cordon manager Brenden Winder said Gloucester St could reopen on March 22.

"Prior to opening up to two-way traffic, underground infrastructure repairs on Gloucester St and facade repairs on the Isaac Theatre Royal must be completed," he said.

"We have been advised that both Gloucester and New Regent streets will be ready to open by March 22."

Theatre general manager Neil Cox said the facade strengthening work was well under way.

The side and back walls of the foyer would be taken down, with the staircase protected and encased.

The foyer would then be rebuilt.

"It is much quicker and easier using modern strengthening techniques, rather than trying to weave new stuff through the old. The back wall of the foyer has some pretty significant cracks through the bricks," he said.

"The thinking is that Gloucester St will go two-way. That is the intention. The theatre will remain on the fringes of the cordon."

The auditorium has been demolished and will be carefully reconstructed.

Cox said a shell should be ready for fitout work by June.

Plans are progressing to equip the new theatre so it can host the New Zealand International Film Festival. The festival has long suffered in Christchurch because it has no large venue where it can show popular films.

Festival organisers need to raise about $260,000 to install a screen, digital projection and sound system in the new theatre.

They have applied to a new Christchurch City Council fund to help raise the money. Festival general manager Sharon Byrne said they would also launch a public fundraising campaign.

Cox supported the film idea and said plans needed to be in place by the end of March to fit in with the rebuild programme.

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- The Press

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