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Call for ideas on town hall’s future

Masterton Town Hall could be transformed into a multipurpose venue. PHOTO/FILE

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A future for Masterton’s earthquake-prone town hall is a step closer.

Masterton District Council on Thursday called for expressions of interest from those wanting to be involved in what will be a multimillion-dollar project to transform the building, closed two years ago after failing an earthquake risk assessment.

Mayor Lyn Patterson has called it “arguably the most important project council is going to deliver for Masterton in the next 10 years”.

The same day Masterton Trust Lands Trust announced plans that could see a multipurpose performance venue in the YMCA building on Queen St.

The two venues are likely to be different in size, with a revamped town hall having a possible seating capacity of 700-plus, likely to be more than twice as big as the space on Queen St.

Patterson said the call for expressions of interest was one of the first stages for the council to learn more about potential development options.

In the recently-adopted 2018-28 Long Term Plan, the council allocated $15.5 million for a “civic centre” on the town hall site.

“We need to make sure we get it right,” the mayor said.

“The purpose of the centre is to bring people together in a large-capacity venue that has a variety of uses, including hosting sports, music and performing arts events.”

The council had committed to building a new civic centre for the community in June, she said.

Patterson said she was expecting a range of different options to be brought to the table through the expression of interest process.

“We want to make sure we’ve considered absolutely everything.”

In the past, there had been discussions about whether the hall could be developed into a hotel or restaurant.

“Now is the time to see whether there are parties interested in bringing these sorts of services to the development and whether they would be of benefit to the community.”

When developer Dave Borman spoke at the council’s Long Term Plan hearings in May, he had a way to keep the town hall façade but build a new town hall venue.

Borman has since undertaken feasibility research and concludes it is feasible.

This option could be done for less than the allocated funds, he said.

He found there is a metre gap between the office block and the town hall which joins at entrance foyer.

He would like to see the hall itself, the weakest part of the building, demolished and the remainder strengthened.

He envisages a modern 700-seater plus town hall, with changing rooms, an orchestra pit and a long meeting room facing towards the Tararua Ranges.

“You can end up with a beautiful town hall, beautiful old building restored and there is a lot of uses for that building that can be beneficial to the town and the council,” Borman said.

It could be hired out for sports events, funerals, weddings and concerts, he said.

“This can be made an icon of Masterton, it can be something quite special.”

Borman said that to have a town hall for larger events, and a separate specific performing arts centre for smaller groups would be great for the town.

Expression of interest are due by the end of August. Details will be available on Tenderlink, while the project management role will be advertised on Seek.

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