Park facelift plan centres round Riff Raff

This is what Embassy Park's future could hold

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 08:47 05/06/2014
Embassy Park
Supplied

PARK UPGRADE: A concept drawing depicting a revamped Embassy Park in Hamilton.

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Vibrant murals, chandeliers and a "proscenium arch" could all be used to glamorise Hamilton's inner-city Embassy Park.

Members of the Embassy Park working group yesterday pitched their vision of a revamped park to city councillors.

The park is home to the Riff Raff statue.

The working group was formed last year and tasked with addressing concerns about anti-social behaviour at the park and devising ideas to make the area safe and attractive for visitors and shoppers.

Councillors yesterday endorsed a proposal which will see the park developed in three stages.

Overall, the project will reference elements of the old Embassy Theatre site and make connections to the theatre scene near the end of Rocky Horror. 

Stage one, which is timed for completion on November 22, will include: Replacing the existing park toilets with a single facility; a cafe terrace opening onto Riff Raff square; mural paintings and the addition of sculptural elements to the south wall behind the Riff Raff statue.

The existing toilets will be painted by Hamilton muralist Jeremy Shirley.

A performance stage and chandeliers are also proposed.

The completion of stage one is timed to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the unveiling of the Riff Raff sculpture and Hamilton's 150th birthday celebrations.

Stage two will involve the construction of a "proscenium arch" which will reflect the Rocky Horror stage show created by Richard O'Brien. A proscenium surrounds the stage opening and a proscenium arch is over this area.

Stage three will focus on linking the city and Waikato River through the the park's lower terrace.

Working group member and Riff Raff Public Arts Trust founder Mark Servian said the different elements of the Embassy Park project were "scalable" but the intention was to make the park an appropriate setting for the world-class Riff Raff statue.

Stage One of the project was estimated to cost $210,900, and would be funded by local businesses, philanthropists and community funders, Servian said.

Stages two and three had not been fully costed but were estimated to cost about $260,000.

Servian said O'Brien and the Rocky Horror Company Ltd approved of the proposal, with O'Brien's only request being the Riff Raff statue did not face the public toilets.

Councillors asked the working party to report back to the council's strategy and policy committee on how the project was progressing.

The project will also be referred to the council's external funding subcommittee to ensure the council could support the working group's funding proposals.

However, councillor Garry Mallett argued the council needed a greater say on the design and proposed artwork for the site, noting the park was a council-owned asset.

Mallett said a lot of the city's public art "isn't particularly flash" and described photographs of muralist Jeremy Shirley's work as "yuck".

His amended motion was voted down, with Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker saying she had complete confidence in the Embassy Park working group.

Hardaker said she supported the project "immensely" and believed it would bring people to the river.

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Councillor Dave Macpherson agreed with the mayor's comments and said the project would transform Embassy Park into an "exciting new space".

Hamilton traditionally did not make enough of its small spaces, he said.

aaron.leaman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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