To save costs, remove the balcony - council is advised

BALCONY: An artist's impression of the inside of the proposed Performing Arts Centre, showing the balcony. Image supplied.
BALCONY: An artist's impression of the inside of the proposed Performing Arts Centre, showing the balcony. Image supplied.

According to a recent architect’s review of Performing Arts Centre plans, one way to make costs savings would be to eliminate the upstairs balcony that contains 100 seats. 

It is an idea that has community members up in arms and the council’s general manager adamant that the balcony wont be removed from the plans. 

A notation in Goulburn Mulwaree council business paper of October 3 states: “The architect has reviewed the plans and the only cost savings would be to eliminate the balcony, which houses the additional 100 seats.”

“The fit out has been minimised and some external cladding removed to reduce the cost. When the proposal is put out for public tender a more comprehensive review of the cost may be required,” the report stated. 

Architects Brewster Hjorth had been asked to review the work to bring it in line with the $12.1m budget. 

Performing Arts Centre (PAC) Working Group member Chris Gordon said such a move would be a backwards step. 

“If that were the case I would be pulling my support from the project because it would be insufficient for present and future needs,” Mr Gordon said. 

He said similar centres in regional NSW have 400-500 seats that make them viable for touring shows and with the planned balcony, Goulburn’s PAC has that – with 275 seats downstairs and 125 seats upstairs.

“With regards to seating, from other centres across regional NSW, 400-500 seating is pretty much the sweet spot. And, with the balcony, we have that,” he said.

“Every seating limit represents a price point,” Mr Gordon said. 

“Some performers might be able to afford to come to town for 200 seats. Others might need 300 to make it work.” 

Mr Gordon said from asking people with experience in booking acts, the number of shows that would come here for a 400 seat PAC but not for a 300 space is substantial. 

“Stated another way, we would lose a hell of a lot of business with the 300 seat option,” he said. 

Goulburn Mulwaree general manager Warwick Bennett was adamant the balcony would not be going.

“No, it won’t be. The council and community have made it clear they want a 400-seat venue. We will await the JRPP decision, and if it is approved, go to tender and see how the price comes out,” Mr Bennett said.

“But a quantity surveyor’s estimate ($12.1m) and an industry estimate which we secured are very much aligned. We’ve done a lot of work on the material to be used on the outside.”

An update to councillors stated that the fit-out had been minimised and some external cladding removed to reduce costs.

Mr Bennett said it was important to await the tender prices because neither the council nor community wanted to “cheapen the product.”

“It will be with us for many decades to come,” he said.

“(But) if no prices come within cooee of the $12.1m, then we’ll have to reassess.”

Senior council staff will meet informally with the JRPP next week (wk starting Oct  17) and a report for the JRPP will be finalised soon after, on which councillors will be briefed. The report will be published on the Panel’s website.

Mr Bennett hoped the JRPP would decide the project in the ensuing two weeks.

Meantime, the council has secured a six-month extension on a $1m National Stronger Regions federal grant for the venue. Under the terms, it must be completed by mid-2019.

“We’re also absolutely delighted that (Goulburn MP) Pru Goward is really behind it and pushing hard to make sure Goulburn Mulwaree gets a fair share of the State Government’s Cultural Arts fund,” Mr Bennett said.

“We’re very confident the State will come through with significant funding. The project is a superb fit for the application criteria.”

The council has also secured $2m from the Veolia Mulwaree Trust, conditional on approval, and $300,000 from Club Grants NSW.