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Christchurch Town Hall restoration gets the go-ahead

111012 News photo:Dean Kozanic The Press. What is the future for the Christchurch Town Hall with it's earthquake damage?

The $127.5 million restoration of the 1972 heritage-listed has been approved by the Christchurch city council.

In what has been labelled a pivotal moment in Christchurch’s recovery, councillors on Thursday voted 12-1 in favour of a full restoration rather than demolition and rebuild.

This will be partially funded by a $68.9 million insurance contribution, with ratepayers contributing the balance of $58.6 million.

The restoration of the Christchurch Town Hall will make it a magnet for entertainment, cultural and community events says the city’s premium venues custodian, Vbase.

Vbase general manager Darren Burden said, “We are very excited about this announcement. Restoring such an iconic venue is another step forward in returning something back to the city that holds a special place in many Cantabrian’s hearts.”

Work is expected to begin on site in July after Christchurch City Council agreed to fully restore the facility by June 2018.

“This includes a possible reconfiguration of the James Hay Theatre which addresses the needs of the performing arts community. The repair method that has been chosen will see the building’s foundations significantly strengthened, ensuring the Town Hall can be used and enjoyed for many more years to come,” said Burden.

While the city’s exciting new building project is underway, the Vbase team will be kept busy operating their five other venues.

Burden said, “The last four years, and up until the Town Hall re-opens, Horncastle Arena has remained incredibly busy as it serves as a temporary Town Hall. This in turn has presented us with availability challenges when working to secure major entertainment acts.”

A number of options for the future of the Town Hall were considered, including partial restoration or building a new facility. The recommendation to fully restore the Town Hall was based on a business case carried out by Deloitte that identified it was the most financially viable option that would also provide fit-for-purpose civic, cultural and performing arts facilities a city the size of Christchurch needs.

Research carried out by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage in 2014 shows a city the size of Christchurch should have a range of venues, including a 2500 seat auditorium. The existing Auditorium in the Town Hall meets this need and is recognised as one of the finest concert halls in the world.

Christchurch also needs a mid-size auditorium for classical music and a mid-size flat-floor contemporary music venue for 500-600 seated and 1000 people standing. These options could be accommodated within a reconfigured James Hay Theatre.

“We have done a significant amount of pre-restoration work and are confident that we will be able to restore the Town Hall within this budgeted amount,” said Burden.

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