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Council Confirms Founders Preference

Hamilton City Council has today confirmed its preference is to demolish the Founders Theatre building and create a new multi-purpose park.

At today’s Council meeting (December 8), Elected Members decided to progress the $3.6M project to demolish the former theatre and build a new multi-purpose park on the site for consideration in Council’s draft 2021-31 budget.

In discussions today, Elected Members noted a nomination had been made for Founders Theatre to be added to the New Zealand Heritage List as a historic place. Heritage New Zealand had recently notified Council of the nomination but has not disclosed who the nominee was.

Heritage New Zealand will do a preliminary investigation and advise Council next year whether it will take the nomination any further.

In October and November, Council asked the community for feedback on three options for the future of the Founders site. Most (84%) submitters wanted to remove the building and create a multi-purpose park.

The two other options were to remove the building and create a basic park or to create something new from the building and area around it. Those who supported this option were asked to provide a business case and funding proposal.

One proposal to retain the existing theatre building was received. The Theatre of the Impossible Trust (TOTI) proposed creating a multi-purpose public space including an art gallery, town hall and outdoor stage.

Founders Theatre was closed in 2016 due to safety concerns over the operation of the stage house fly system, fire and other safety hazard protection.

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The building, which opened in 1962, is also earthquake-prone. Estimates for restoration have ranged from $12M to $20M.

Council has extensively consulted with the community since Founders Theatre closed.

Momentum Waikato’s proposal to lead construction of a new regional theatre came out of the first round of consultation in 2016. That project is now well advanced, with construction due to begin early in 2021.

The proposed design for the new multi-purpose park includes different areas for holding events, playing and enjoying nature. It is part of a plan to open up the West Town Belt, a 54ha band of green space stretching from Lake Rotoroa (Hamilton Lake) to the Waikato River.

Confirmation and timing of the new park on the Founders site will be decided through the 2021-31 Long-Term Plan.

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