Sydney’s Metro-Minerva Theatre approved for hotel development
By JUSTIN COOPER.
The Central Sydney Planning Committee has approved proposals to transform King Cross’ Metro-Minerva Theatre into a hotel and bar venue, despite thousands of community members calling for the revival of the entertainment space.
On Thursday night, November 9, the planning committees granted conditional approval for developers, Central Element, to redevelop the Heritage listed theatre.
The 83-year old theatre with its unique Art-Deco architecture, is widely known for its past stage performances, including its 1969 production of Hair, and once being the production headquarters the Kennedy Miller company.
The 1000-seater venue is to be converted into a 63-room hotel, cafe and bar, with a 250-seat auditorium for Parisian-cabaret entertainment.
Considered the “best outcome”
During the committee meeting, members recognised the community support for the performing space to be reinstated. However, members said the development application would help bring “vitality” back to the space and the Kings Cross area.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore recognised the past difficulties with the proposal, with plans previously being delayed due to concerns for the building’s structural integrity.
Despite the larger number of live and written submissions made against the proposal, Moore said the current plans would allow the building to be adequatley used.
“An important building that has been empty will get a new life,” said Moore, recalling previous plans by the former Lord Mayor to demolish the Queen Victoria Building.
“It’s a classic example of what can happen when buildings remain empty and don’t get a new life, and I have great confidence in the architects.”
“It is the best outcome we can get on this site, given all the circumstances… and to give new use to this important building,” Moore continued.
Strong support for theatre revival
Over the past three years, there has been consistent community support for the theatre to be revitalised and reinstated as a performing arts theatre.
During the meeting’s public submissions, former arts and heritage minister Don Harwin expressed the necessity for the theatre’s revival to support culture and arts within Sydney.
Harwin said that the revival of the theatre would be embraced by production companies, who are currently subject to “five to six” year-long waiting times for a production’s premiere in Sydney.
He highlight the need for more theatres, with Sydney holding “fewer theatre seats” in comparison to other major cities. “Melbourne, Chicago and New York have 400-500 seats per million residents; Sydney has only 300,” said Harwin.
“There is a clear public interest to secure this site for theatre use. A reopened minerva theatre would contribute to the vibrancy and liveability of the city and enhance the visitor and night time economies.”
Noting the heritage committee’s response to proposals, Harwin said that it “fails the reversibility test” and that any major changes would prevent future conservations.
“This proposal is not a last resort…If this proposal goes ahead, it will just not be possible to reopen the building as a commercial theatre, as it should be.”
The Metro-Minerva Theatre Action Group also made submissions towards keeping the entertainment space, presenting a petition which currently has almost 3,000 signatures.
Previously speaking to City Hub, committee member Brandon Martignago expressed the significance of the performing space.
“The community [could] lose a critical and cultural piece of Sydney’s art infrastructure without a chance for it to ever be revitalised as a live performance space ever again,” said Martignago.
City Hub has reached out to Metro-Minerva Theatre Action Group for further comment.