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Town Hall deal inked between WCC, NZSO and VUW School of Music

Wellington’s Town Hall moved closer to becoming a centre for civic and cultural events in the city after the signing of a binding Collaboration and Redevelopment Agreement between the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Victoria University’s New Zealand School of Music Te Kōkῑ, and the Wellington City Council.

The organisations formally agreed yesterday to redevelop the Town Hall as a centre for civic events and as the heart of a $187m million centre of musical and creative excellence, education, cultural connections and community engagement.

The Town Hall, partially reflected in the MFC. Photo by Mark Cubey.

Mayor Justin Lester said, “The Town Hall is an iconic Wellington heritage building with world-renowned acoustics. The signing of this agreement, and the start of construction work on the Town Hall, are exciting steps towards achieving that vision.”

Victoria University of Wellington’s Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford said “This joint agreement to redevelop the Town Hall is another crucial moment in the journey towards establishing a national music centre in central Wellington.

“Our fundraising campaign continues to progress positively and we are grateful for a number of significant leadership gifts, including the recent $4 million grant from the Lottery Grants Board.”

NZSO’s Chief Executive Christopher Blake said that a refurbished Town Hall will provide many opportunities for the NZSO including “rehearsal and performance, recording, film scoring, broadcast, streaming and the development of creative projects and concert formats for touring. The Orchestra will be able to take full advantage of its fine acoustics and the modern technologies that will be part of the redevelopment.”

The Collaboration and Redevelopment Agreement cannot be released to the ublic because of commercial reasons.

The Town Hall opened in 1904 and is one of the city’s most important heritage buildings.

It was designated as earthquake-prone in 2009, meeting less than 33 percent of the New Building Standard, and was closed to the public after the Seddon earthquake in 2013.

The Town Hall site is reclaimed land, prone to liquefaction in an earthquake, and the building sits on ageing, unreinforced concrete piles making the structure unreliable in an earthquake.

The current project will resolve both these factors, with strengthening and upgrade work starting later this year once masonry, including brick parapets and facades, are secured to minimise the risk of falling building material in the event of an earthquake.

The upgrade work will include a new, stronger floor for the main auditorium, and a new basement under the main auditorium providing public toilets and usable space. The tiered Ilott Theatre will be converted to a flat floor space suitable for standalone performances and a support space for the main auditorium. The West Hall between the Town Hall and the Municipal Office Building will be rebuilt to provide access from Wakefield Street to Civic Square and a link to the adjacent building. Servicing storage and public facilities will be improved, including better loading facilities in the main auditorium with a second stage lift. The Town Hall pipe organ has been restored and will be reinstalled in the main auditorium.

Completion is scheduled for 2021.