Last week, South Island members had the opportunity to attend an exclusive update from The Court Theatre project team, including Christchurch City Council Project Manager, Matt Cummins, Julian Ramsay of Ruamoko Solutions and The Court Theatre’s Barbara George and Ross Gumbley.
The Performing Arts Precinct is one of the key anchor projects in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan released in 2012 and is being built in the block bounded by Armagh, Gloucester, Colombo and New Regent Streets in Christchurch’s central city.
The Precinct currently includes the Isaac Theatre Royal, and The Piano: Centre for Music and the Arts. Christchurch City Council is working in partnership with The Court Theatre to build the theatre’s new central city home in the Precinct. The project is currently in design phase. Construction of the new Court Theatre is expected to begin in early 2022 and it is due to open in late 2023. The Council is also in negotiations with a preferred provider for a multi-storey car park building on the Performing Arts Precinct site.
A bold design for modern times
In late 2020, Christchurch City Council and The Court Theatre released the concept design for the new theatre.
Preeminent London-based architects Haworth Tompkins, Athfield Architects and a wider consultant team worked on the concept design, which is the first stage of the design process.
The new three-storey Court Theatre will be built on the corner of Colombo and Gloucester Streets.
It will include a 360-seat main playhouse auditorium; a 130-seat studio theatre, where children’s and family shows can be held; and front-of-house facilities.
All aspects of a working theatre, including set-building, costume-making and rehearsals, will be based on site, with plans to make these usually back-stage activities more visible to the public.
The building design will be environmentally-friendly, with the use of natural materials, ventilation and light.
Opportunities for developers
Subject to Council approval, Christchurch City Council are planning to issue an expression of interest later in late July/early August seeking parties interested in developing the land at 128-138 Armagh Street for activities that complement the Performing Arts Precinct.
This piece of land is the final part of the Performing Arts Precinct site that has no defined future use. The land was transferred from the Crown to the Council last year as part of the Global Settlement Agreement following the Christchurch 2010–2011 earthquakes. The Ken’s Camera building that was previously on the site was demolished last year. The footprint for a proposed new development at 128-138 Armagh Street site will be around 1500m2.
The vision for the Performing Arts Precinct is to create a strong cultural heart for Christchurch and to positively contribute to the revival of Christchurch’s central city, in partnership with the private sector and the performing arts sector.
The Performing Arts Precinct will bring together a wide range of performing arts – from flagship plays to intimate performance, from large shows to stand-up comedy and contemporary bands to ground-breaking theatre. A central courtyard and three lanes within the block are also being designed to help draw people into the site.
Funding and timelines
Construction of the new Court Theatre is expected to begin in early 2022 and it is due to open in late 2023.
Athfield Architects, Haworth Tompkins, landscape architects Canopy and Gap Filler are also working on the design for public space in the Performing Arts Precinct, in partnership with Matapopore. A series of laneways from Gloucester, Colombo and Armagh Streets will draw people to a central courtyard in the middle of the Precinct, which will be used for a range of outdoor performances from busker shows to kapa haka festivals.
At the same time, the Council is continuing to investigate options for a carpark building in the Performing Arts Precinct.
The Council is committing $30 million towards the development of the Performing Arts Precinct, which includes the construction of The Court Theatre, the public space and landscaping. This funding was set aside in the Council’s Long Term Plan 2018-2028.
The Court is also fundraising $6 million as its contribution towards the project and the Crown has provided the land and some funding under the terms of the global settlement agreement with the Council.