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Car park closing to house ballet dancers

The Michael Fowler Centre car park will close next Saturday, 21 July, so that construction can start on a temporary home for the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Assembly of the prefabricated building by the Wellington City Council will start in the car park on Monday 23 July, and is expected to take three to four months.

The building will house the RNZB while it vacates the St James Theatre for earthquake strengthening. The St James also housed the offices of the New Zealand Festival, who relocated to Te Auaha NZ Institute of Creativity in May.

The work on the St James is planned to be completed in time for the 2020 New Zealand Festival, but is likely to be completed before then, says the City Council’s Property Manager, Peter Brennan.

He says the timeline has changed slightly now that contractors have been engaged and had an opportunity to better understand the construction methodology which has had some impact on the design.

“The strengthening work is being overseen by a heritage architect to ensure that heritage elements are protected during the works. We need to get this work done to make this iconic building more resilient and to protect it for the foreseeable future.”

The work will strengthen the St James Theatre complex to a minimum 67 per cent New Building Standard.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, who also holds the Council’s Arts portfolio, is glad that the RNZB can be relocated within the Te Aro precinct, which he described as the creative centre of Wellington.

“Prefabricated buildings are becoming the norm for cities that are challenged by issues like resilience and space. In Wellington, the fact that we can get something like this up means that we have options for our creative sector to continue thriving.”

Peter Brennan says no final decision has been made about what will happen to the car park and the building once the RNZB returns to the St James Theatre.