August 9, 2010

The fate of Auckland’s St James

Editor    posted 9 Aug 2010, 04:52 PM / edited 9 Aug 2010, 04:55 PM

Two articles from The New Zealand Herald suggest the only way Auckland’s St James Theatre can be saved as a live theatre venue is in exchange for the Aotea Theatre/ The Edge becoming part of an international convention and exhibition centre.

Theatre group offers lifeline for St James

By Anne Gibson

The Weekend Herald

After being shut for three years, one of Auckland’s most precious historic buildings could get a lifeline.

Queen St’s ornate vintage St James Theatre is at the heart of bold plans by The Edge to win the right to build an international convention and exhibition centre for 5000 people.

As one of five contenders for that $200 million-$500 million job, The Edge put a bid into the Ministry of Economic Development to incorporate the St James into wider plans for civic buildings in the area and use the 1928 Historic Places Trust-ranked theatre instead of the Aotea Centre’s main centre for theatre, opera and ballet.

The Edge bid described how the theatre was crucial to its bid. [More]

St James Theatre restoration would be music to the ears of many

By Brian Rudman

NZ Herald

5:30 AM Monday Aug 9, 2010

A couple of months ago, I argued in favour of The Edge/Aotea Centre as the best home for the new international convention centre.

One of the points in its favour was that it matched the Ministry of Economic Development and Auckland City’s feasibility study conclusion that “proximity to a critical mass of appropriate standard hotel rooms is the single most important attribute for conference buyers because of the convenience this provides conference organisers and delegates”.

ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane, another of the five contenders for the Government-led contract, later sat me down and politely pointed out the error of my conclusions. As they saw it anyway.

Their argument was that distance was an illusion, and with a fleet of shuttle buses operating after the morning rush-hour traffic had disappeared, delegates could be wafted back and forth from downtown hotels in the blink of an eye.

Whether the promise of a speedy shuttle service, combined with a site looking out on lambs gambolling in adjacent Cornwall Park is enough to persuade the experts from the ministry, we should know in a month or so when their preliminary report is released.

My support for The Edge site was, as I admitted earlier, driven by the proposal within it to trade making the existing ASB Theatre the main auditorium for the convention centre in return for the restoration of the neighbouring historic St James Theatre into a 1300-seat venue, ideal for opera, ballet and drama. [More]

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