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Wellington City Council Announcement On Reading Cinema Proposal

Wellington City Council has ended negotiations with Reading Cinemas on a proposed deal aimed at reopening the cinema complex on Courtenay Place.

Senior Council staff have not been able to reach the best possible outcomes for Wellingtonians and the decision was made this week to not pursue the proposal further.

Mayor Tory Whanau and elected members were briefed on the decision this afternoon. Mayor Whanau called the outcome “disappointing, but the right one”.

The Mayor and elected members voted last year to give staff the go-ahead to undertake due diligence and negotiate a $32 million arrangement that would fund a comprehensive refurbishment of the building, including earthquake-strengthening. The building has been closed to the public since 2019.

Mayor Whanau says she was elected with a mandate to create a vibrant centre city. “A key part of that has been revamping the Courtenay Precinct, alongside delivering the Golden Mile, Pōneke Promise and Courtenay Precinct Plan,” says Mayor Tory Whanau.

“I’ve said many times that I supported officers to find a creative and innovative solution about what to do with the Reading building. However, I want to be very clear that this was never a done deal.”

City Council Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow says Council staff had worked extremely hard and endured great pressure in a bid to negotiate an arrangement with Reading.

“We always signalled that we would halt negotiations if we were not able to reach a formal agreement in a timely manner. We’ve reached that stage.”

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Mayor Whanau says she hopes Reading will look at the cinema site as holding great potential for redevelopment. “It would be heartbreaking for the site to sit unused for too long so I urge Reading to continue to explore development deals.”


Council plans for Courtenay Place

· With the Council recently taking over the Golden Mile project from Let’s Get Wellington Moving it is intended that revitalisation works will begin on Courtenay Place.

· This is on top of $179 million for Tākina (completed 2023) and $42 million for the strengthening of the St James Theatre (completed 2022). Bringing the total investment delivered and committed in recent years to the Courtenay precinct to $290 million.

· Courtenay Place precinct plan (November 2023) - Developed in collaboration with local businesses and residents, the Courtenay plan sets out a vision and a clear pathway forward to revitalise the area as Wellington's 'premier place to play'.

The plan includes the development of an investment prospectus currently being developed (ready in May), to help unlock private sector funding.

· The District Plan changes recently approved by the Council provides for increased height limits in a number of areas to maximise development opportunities in the central city. This is important given the projected nearly doubling of residents calling this area home by 2050 (from 11,800 currently to 20,000).

· Funding $300,000 (per year for three years) has been approved for operational city precinct initiatives from the City Growth Fund (CGF), with a further $700,000 from the CGF available to go toward central city revitalisation initiatives in 2024-2026.

· The Pōneke Promise partners group met and kicked off the year with a renewed commitment to work together on the issues facing the central city, including addressing safety concerns along Manners Street.

o A session with 40 businesses in the area was held (week of 8 April) to share the important work our social agencies across Pōneke do to combat the complexities surrounding homelessness. This is focused on enhanced education and myth busting – we believe this will help businesses understand the situation, the network of social support available, and how they can best support.

o Cleanliness continues to be a priority. In addition to the current cleaning schedule, a new cleaning regime began last month with a targeted cleaner dedicated inside the Courtenay precinct during the hours of 12.30-2.30pm, seven days a week.

o In February Take 10 opened a three-month pop-up site at 47 Courtenay Place. This second site is closer to the cluster of bars and provides additional presence during the busiest time of the year and is going very well.

o Ongoing work currently being scoped focuses on beautification, creative lighting, cleaning, and public space upgrades.

· Te Ngakau – The recent announcement of Precinct Properties being selected to undertake the redevelopment of the Civic Administration Building (CAB) and Municipal Office Building (MOB) sites marked a major milestone in the revitalisation of Te Ngākau and bringing the precinct back to being the heart of the capital city.

o CAB will be demolished by the end of 2024, followed by MOB by the end of 2025 and a new building will be erected on these vacant sites. 

o The Central Library is set to be completed by the end of 2025, with an anticipated opening in early 2026, while the Town Hall is set for completion in 2027.

Increasing activation

· Collaboration with businesses is in progress, with the City Council supporting Hospitality NZ & the Courtenay Accord/Precinct group to run a series of street performances throughout the precinct over April-June.

· The Pride Parade held in March on Courtenay place through to the Rainbow Crossing on Dixon Street was supported as a Courtenay Precinct initiative where it helped to showcase Courtenay Place as a vibrant, inclusive, and culturally significant area.

· In June 2023 over 50 people helped give Courtenay Place a spruce up - removing over 90kg of rubbish, scrubbing away graffiti at hotspots, wiping down building exteriors and more.

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