10 November 2022

Theatre redevelopment step closer as companies line up for design phase

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra Theatre

A redeveloped Canberra Theatre Centre will be the centrepiece of the eventual new cultural precinct in Civic. Photo: Region.

A new Canberra Theatre that can host blockbuster productions is a step closer after an ACT Government request for expressions of interest to find a design and technical partner attracted 21 submissions from national and international consortia.

A redeveloped Canberra Theatre Centre will be the centrepiece of the eventual new cultural precinct in Civic, and the government says it will be essential to the city’s performing arts future and a key driver for the tourism, hospitality and accommodation sectors.

Up to three consortia will be shortlisted to participate in the next phase of the procurement process which will run until the first quarter of 2023.

These shortlisted groups will be required to submit concept designs for the redevelopment, which will include a new 2000-seat theatre building, including a bigger stage for major performances and a major refurbishment of The Playhouse.

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The existing Canberra Theatre will be revamped as a more flexible space to host a broad range of performances, concerts and events, while the Courtyard Studio will be significantly expanded to accommodate a wider range of performances and large-scale rehearsals.

Tenderers will be asked to develop designs for world-class performance spaces that create outstanding audience experiences and deliver excellence in urban design and architecture.

The government expects to appoint a successful consortium by the middle of next year to develop and deliver detailed Canberra Theatre Centre designs.

Design, public consultation and approval processes will take around two years. This work will also inform planning for the project’s construction phase.

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A spokesperson said the ACT Government would make further announcements on the construction phase in 2024, but it was expected that the current design work would naturally flow into construction procurement and then construction itself.

Design concepts will be released for feedback throughout the design process, with an opportunity for the community and stakeholders to provide feedback and input.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said a modern theatre with greater capacity would enable larger and more varied blockbuster productions to come to Canberra and play to a regional population of about one million people.

“This is a great opportunity to attract regional tourism and spending in Canberra instead of Sydney or Melbourne,” he said.

“The renewed centre will also support the growth of the capital’s live performance industry by including spaces for artists and arts workers to develop and rehearse productions.”

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Minister for the Arts Tara Cheyne said Canberra’s appetite for arts and culture made the national capital an attractive market for touring productions and artists.

“A renewed Canberra Theatre Centre, including a new major theatre, will be the centrepiece of the revitalisation of the arts precinct around Civic Square to create a vibrant Canberra Civic and Culture District,” Ms Cheyne said.

“This exciting project will build on the Statement of Ambition for the Arts, helping to position Canberra as Australia’s arts capital.

“It’s great to see such a significant level of interest from design teams who want to partner with the ACT Government on this city-shaping project.”

The government made a significant down payment on the new cultural precinct with a $30 million Budget commitment to the theatre redevelopment.

The bulk of the funding ($28.44 million) will go towards detailed design work to the shovel-ready stage and extensive stakeholder and community consultation, while $2.39 million will allow the start of essential workplace health and safety upgrades and resourcing to support the expansion and redevelopment of the Theatre Centre.

To stay informed on the Canberra Theatre Redevelopment project, and on opportunities to have a say on the development, register your email address at builtforcbr.act.gov.au.

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