Masterton Town Hall. PHOTO/FILE
A late spanner has been thrown into the works grinding away to settle the future of the Masterton Town Hall, closed two years ago after failing an earthquake risk assessment.
Developer David Borman told Masterton District Council’s Long Term Plan hearings on Tuesday that a new 700-seat town hall venue with modern facilities could be built within the earthquake-strengthened walls of the existing building for $12-13 million.
The council has proposed three options – demolishing the building and replacing it with a performing arts and events centre at a cost of $15.5m, strengthening the existing town hall at $12-15m, or demolishing the building and not replacing it at $850,000.
The town hall was closed in June 2016, after an engineering report indicated that the reinforced concrete frames which braced the hall were at a compliance level of 20-25 per cent of the New Building Standard, below the legal requirement of 34 per cent.
Under Mr Borman’s proposal, the hall itself – the weakest part of the building – would be completely replaced, and a large meeting room added.
The building would meet 100 per cent of the building code for earthquake preparedness.
He believes “Masterton needs a town hall”, despite 59 per cent of submitters on the LTP favouring an arts and events centre.
Mr Borman said the town hall would be too big for community-based performance groups but other options for them were available in Masterton.
“We need a place for bigger artists and performances . . . suitable for big occasions,” he said.
“These buildings are not difficult to strengthen when they are tied together and they have good foundations — this building has good foundations.
“We can easily do this here and keep this beautiful building.”
Under Mr Borman’s proposals the office space previously occupied by the council could be leased to a commercial tenant,
His comments came after Toby Mills of Noise Productions said it would be a waste of money to simply earthquake strengthen the building without addressing its multiple flaws as a venue – including deficient lighting, sound, stage, and catering facilities.
“Every aspect of the town hall is poor,” he said.
But Mr Mills said a venue the size of Carterton’s events centre – up to about 400 people – was too small for “national” tours, by the likes of Dave Dobbyn, and a space with a capacity of around 800 was required for Masterton.
“It’s bigger than just earthquake-strengthening,” he said.
“My gut feel is that if you fixed the earthquake strengthening and just opened the doors, it is still not going to be used very much.”
Mr Mills said event organisers wanted well-equipped venues that did not require extra facilities to be brought in and paid for.
“Masterton Town Hall has big gaps. . . You can walk into the Carterton Events Centre and it is ready to go.”
The success of the Carterton venue also meant it effectively promoted itself.
“People look to see what is happening at the Carterton Events Centre . . . that doesn’t happen at the town hall and it’s never happened at the town hall.”
The council’s LTP hearings continue from 9am today.