Project spotlight: Movie Magic

As they say in the entertainment business, the show must go on. After sustaining irreparable damage to the cinema and parking building in the devastating Kaikōura/ Wellington earthquake of 2016, the projectors are rolling once again in Queensgate Shopping Centre, Lower Hutt with the completion of the Queensgate Event Cinema and IMAX development.

The new state-of-the-art cinema complex, developed by Stride Investment Management (Stride) comprises seven theatres and associated entertainment spaces spread over more than 7800sqm.

The previous cinema and car park had to be demolished following the earthquake. The brief for the rebuild was to accommodate the cinemas and parking but to do so in a manner that vastly enhanced the urban design outcome. The project team aimed to improve accessibility and meet structural resilience requirements both in the new build and elsewhere in the Queensgate shopping centre complex.

“We always saw the cinema as a key component of not only the shopping centre but also as a place for the residents of Wellington to congregate and to be entertained,” says Philip Littlewood, Chief Executive Officer at Stride.

Adds Mark Luker, General Manager Development: “The new build was an opportunity to start afresh with a clean canvas and Event Cinemas was keen to partner with us to create a new space that offers a world class cinema experience.”

The design delivers the latest technology, a range of new seating options along with dining and other entertainment. The new VMAX and IMAX cinemas, introduce state-of-the-art sound and projection systems.

It was important to Stride, in conjunction with Event Cinemas and IMAX, that the reconstruction and upgrade were of the highest quality.

Taking inspiration from the local environment, the project team developed an elegant architectural design. The facade features a colour gradient of panels and aluminium louvres, which are backlit at night, with flowing negative detail representing the Te Awa Kairangi/ Hutt River. These decorative features help to break up the large form of the cinema complex.

Emphasis was placed on the function and accessibility of the car park to improve the customer experience. The result is a striking new build that has reinstated a popular Lower Hutt community hub.

Structural and geotechnical engineering were also important project drivers. The site has high earthquake loads that are further increased by the complex’s requirement for additional seismic resilience. Several concepts were explored to find the best structural and foundation solution for the site conditions and the set-out requirements for a cinema on top of a car park. The innovative approach was use of a buckling-restrained brace frame on a concrete ground floor raft slab, which removed the need for extremely challenging piling.

Further challenges included the impacts of Covid-19 lockdowns and subsequent material supply issues, particularly plasterboard shortages.

“Anyone developing during the lockdowns saw unprecedented delays and increased costs,” says Allan Lockie, Senior Development Manager at Stride Investment Management. This was stressful at the time, however our team pulled together. Our builders, Naylor Love and project managers RCP, together with other consultants, did a fantastic job in helping us navigate those difficult times.

Building on the positives of the previous cinema complex while adding to improvements was key. Several studies on car park efficiencies and safety were undertaken to increase customer use.

A car park management system has been installed that directs customers to available spots and reduces congestion. A new loading area was also added to improve service access and recycling facilities.

Sustainability was also a factor: energy efficient lighting was installed, as was CO2 monitoring in the car park. Building management systems minimise maintenance, while three other buildings in the wider shopping complex were strengthened for additional seismic resilience.

For Stride Property, the success of the rebuild is clear. The cinemas are drawing new customers and patrons are visiting more often. Event Cinemas CEO Carmen Switzer agrees. “Event Cinemas couldn’t be more thrilled with how this complex has come together, offering a fabulous destination for all moviegoers.”

QUEENSGATE EVENT CINEMA AND IMAX DEVELOPMENT

Level 2, Queensgate Shopping Mall, 45 Knights Road, Te Awa Kairangi ki Tai Lower Hutt

OWNER DIVERSIFIED NEW ZEALAND PROPERTY TRUST

DEVELOPER STRIDE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT

CONSTRUCTION NAYLOR LOVE

ARCHITECT DAVID THORNTON AND NICOLA PALMER, FORMERLY OF BUCHAN GROUP

SERVICE AND MECHANICAL ENGINEER BECA

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER SILVESTER CLARK

QUANTITY SURVEYOR RIDER LEVETT BUCKNELL

PROJECT MANAGER RCP

OTHER CONSULTANTS ENGEO GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEERS

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