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St James Theatre a Step Closer to Re-opening

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    21 October 2014 ST JAMES THEATRE A STEP CLOSER TO RE-OPENING FOLLOWING SALE OF SITE  Auckland’s iconic St James Theatre is a st ep closer to re-opening, with the sale of its site to a new owner who is committed to preserving the building and seeing it used as a performance venue once again.  As part of its purchase of 302 Queen Street, new owner Relianz Holdings will work with the  Auckland Notable Properties Trust to conduct a thorough evaluation of work required to re-open the St James Theatre. The sale will also result in construction of a fully consented 39-story residential tower (the St James Suites), a 3,000 square metre retail precinct and 195 car park spaces, in a development to be led by Elemental Construction Solutions (ECS). ECS Director and Relianz Holdings ’  Development Director, Mike Gibbon says the project will rejuvenate the area known as the Aotea Quarter, while catering for the continued growth of population in and around the city centre. “ Construction will see the generation of thousands of jobs in the city in what amounts to another boon for Auckland as construction projects continue to revitalise the city,” he says.   “But perhaps the most significant contribution  to greater Auckland is the potential to re-open the famed St James Theatre. ”   An agreement has been signed between Relianz Holdings and the Auckland Notable Properties Trust with the intention of working in partnership towards upgrading the theatre to modern and safe standards for a potential re-opening.  Auckland Mayor Len Brown believes a re-opened St James Theatre would be a fantastic result for all Aucklanders. “The St James Theatre is an icon of Auckland in the truest sense,” says  Mayor Brown. “Preserving the St Jam es and seeing it re-opened has been a high priority for Auckland Council and for me personally, so it is great to see the private sector taking a big step towards that.    “This is a wonderful  opportunity for the people of Auckland and anyone who has fond recollections of the theatre. ”  Initially opened in 1928, the theatre has been closed since 2007 as a result of a fire in a neighbouring building. Prior to its closure, the St James was one of Auckland’s most popular cultural venues and has seen the likes of Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh perform  –  it also played host to the 1981 Royal Variety Performance for Queen Elizabeth II. “We are looking forward to working closely with committed partners, Elemental Construction Solutions and the Auckland Notable Properties Trust, who are equally as passionate about the thea tre’s re - opening as the council,” Len Brown says.   “Combined wi th a retail space and new apartments that will help meet our future population demands in the city centre, we believe this development will contribute to a thriving cultural and retail precinct for all Aucklanders to enjoy.”  ECS will manage the entire construction project and will continue with a thorough investigation into the best way forward with the goal of re-opening the theatre. Mike Gibbon says initial evaluations have been promising. “We have undertake n some preliminary evaluations of the building  –  but we have a lot more work to do before finalising details around the work,” Mr Gibbon says. “Until the sale was wrapped up  it was impossible for us to conduct the depth of evaluation needed to detail the scope of work on the St James. Now we have full access, we will be able to develop a more thorough scope of work. ”  He says the first priority will be all of the safety and seismic improvements needed to ensure all safety standards for the building are met. “Once the theatre is re -opened, we will implement a staged improvement and maintenance programme. “It is important to note that the existing fabric of the theatre will not be affected by the planned development and, as a Category One heritage building, all work will be scrutinised by Heritage New Zealand .”      While a budget and funding for the theatre work has yet to be agreed, it is expected Relianz Holdings, Auckland Council and the Auckland Notable Properties Trust could each contribute towards the re-opening, with funding from other sources also likely to play an important part. The ownership and management structure of the re-opened theatre has yet to be finalised and is one of the important details to be worked through in the months ahead. Mr Gibbon also highlighted the role the new apartment tower at 302 Queen Street will play in a quickly growing city centre. “The St James Suites are designed to appeal to Aucklanders and cater for the continuing influx of new residents who are looking for a high quality living option in a premium location. There will be 16 large three-bedroom apartments, 120 two-bedroom apartments from 75 square metres in size, the remaining one bedroom apartments begin at 48 square metres.  All apartments feature full kitchens, laundries & generous sized balconies (minimum eight square metres). “W e have budgeted for a premium finish, and our intention for St James Suites to be an aspirational address in Aucklan d’s CBD. C ertainly the architect behind the project, Paul Brown of Paul Brown & Architects has done a great job of designing a quality residential complex.”   Advertising will begin for the St James Suites apartments early in 2015. Ends For further information please contact: Simon Roche, Wright Communications 027 269 2876 simon@wrightcommunications.co.nz Mike Gibbon, Elemental Construction Solutions 021 223 5343 mike@elemental.net.nz 
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