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Hamilton City Council to let the community decide the future of the Founders Theatre

Hamilton City Council to let the community decide the future of the Founders Theatre
April 1, 2016

Hamilton City Council voted unanimously in favour of public consultation to gauge the community's views on options for the future of the Founders Theatre.

Sean Murray, Executive Director of H3 - the Council's event facilities arm - says thes decision will kick-start a process in which members of the public and stakeholder groups from the performing arts community will make submissions on the future of the theatre.

Murray explains "we've been fully aware the situation with Founders has been a 'hot topic' in the city - particularly for the performing arts community – and the public consultation process gives all interested individuals and groups an opportunity to contribute to this important discussion.”

The exact timeframes and methods for the public consultation are still to be determined, but the Council will aim to make the information as accessible as possible through a range of channels. A survey of Hamilton and Waikato residents will be included, along with direct engagement with the public, the arts community and relevant organisations.

The consultation process will be detailed to the Mayor and Councillors in April, and is then expected to run for four weeks through May.

Once the public consultation period is concluded, staff will analyse the feedback and submissions and present a subsequent report and recommendation to the Mayor and Councillors in June. The June report will also include a detailed seismic assessment of the building.

The 54-year-old theatre was temporarily closed in February, following independent reports into the safety of the building and its flying system. The theatre's flying system, which relies on ‘tall ships’ type technology to hoist and retrieve scenic backdrops and curtains, has reached the end of its usable life and there are concerns over the structural integrity of the building, particularly the stage house and the auditorium roof.

The staff report outlined three options for the future of the theatre:

• Redevelopment of the existing Founders Theatre, estimated to take two-three years and at a cost of approximately $20 million.
• Demolition of the Founders Theatre and the construction of a new theatre, estimated to take up to five years and at a cost tentatively estimated to be $50 million.
• The permanent closure or ‘mothballing’ of Founders, followed by the possible demolition of the building.

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