Bid to save Majestic Theatre

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 12:07 05/12/2013
Majestic theatre
David Hallett

UNDER THREAT: The historic Majestic Theatre sits within the central city's new eastern frame and is likely to be demolished to allow Manchester St to be widened.

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The Christchurch City Council has agreed to help try to save the Majestic Theatre in Manchester St.

The historic theatre is under threat because it sits within the central city's eastern frame and is likely to be demolished to allow Manchester St to be widened.

Addressing the council's earthquake recovery committee meeting today, Ross Gray, the deputy chair of Historic Places Canterbury, said too much of the central city's heritage fabric had been lost (about 40 per cent) and Christchurch could not afford to lose more.

He said the Majestic, which is now owned by the Crown, had the potential to become a key focal point for community-based cultural and social activities. It could also service small-scale convention needs.

Dr Ian Lochhead pointed out the Majestic, built in 1930, had hosted such performers as The Beatles, Manfred Mann and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. It was the city's first fully steel-framed building and was a landmark on a key intersection.

If retained it would alleviate the "potential blandness and monotony'' of the post-quake city by providing variety and contrast.

"There is strong public support for the retention of the building,'' Lochhead said.

"The Majestic is too valuable a heritage building to needlessly demolish and potentially offers a vibrant interface between the east frame's inner city living, the innovation precinct and CPIT.''

Lochhead said if the intersection of Manchester, High and Lichfield streets was reconfigured Manchester St could be widened without sacrificing the Majestic.

Gray asked the council to seek a moratorium on the demolition of the Majestic while a thorough assessment was done of the building's potential.

He also suggested the council should commission a report on the cost of strengthening and restoring the building.

He admitted they had not spoken to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) about the possibility of saving the building as they wanted to first enlist the support of the council.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel agreed the council should seek a meeting with Cera to emphasis the importance of saving the Majestic and to discuss how that could be achieved before any decision was made around its demolition.

"We would like to be able to influence a halting of any decision around demolition until there had been a full assessment of the building's potential,'' Dalziel said.

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