Festival Centre to receive $90 million facelift

The Adelaide Festival Centre is set to receive a $90 million makeover as part of the State Government’s planned riverbank redevelopment.

The Adelaide Festival Centre is set to receive a $90 million makeover as part of the State Government’s planned riverbank redevelopment. The news follows last week’s revelation of a new $610 million plan to upgrade and redevelop the Festival Plaza precinct, which would include a 24 storey office tower to be situated behind Old Parliament House and a complete upgrade of the Festival Centre Car Park. The State Government will contribute $180 million towards the Festival Plaza overhaul, with the remainder to be met by riverbank developers Walker Corporation. The plan, which will see the demise of Hajek Plaza just a few years shy of its 40th year, initially made no mention of an upgrade to the Festival Centre precinct. The notable omission seemed destined to upset those among South Australia’s Arts community crying out for a substantial upgrade to the facility. They included outgoing Adelaide Festival Creative Director David Sefton who highlighted the need for an overhaul to prevent the Centre becoming a “shabby cousin” to the redeveloped Adelaide Oval. Under the new plan the Festival Centre can reclaim its position as that arty older sibling who keeps trying to convince you to read James Joyce’ Ulysses. “We have seen at the Adelaide Oval how an infrastructure investment can help to significantly drive audience growth and we hope to replicate that experience at the Festival Centre,” Adelaide Festival Centre CEO & Artistic Director Douglas Gautier said in a statement. “Our facilities will be renewed and fully integrated into the Precinct.” The redevelopment will include an $11 millon overhaul of the Centre’s sound, lighting and staging infrastructure which have reportedly “fallen below national standards” in recent years. In news sure to upset fans of funky 70s carpeting, the building will also receive a cosmetic revamp in a project being touted as the single largest upgrade of the venue since it opened in 1973. Adelaide-Festival-Centre Artist’s rendition of the upgrade The plan will include: – A “renewal” of the Festival Theatre’s foyer – An upgrade of the building’s exterior to address water damage and improve the complex’s appearance – Capitalising on the Centre’s proximity to the riverbank by “open[ing] up” it’s Northern side. Along with an upgrade to the Elder Park Kiosk, the plan will open up several new entry points to the Festival Theatre and Dunstan Playhouse from both the Parliament-facing plaza and the centre’s northern side opening onto Elder Park.  The addition of an “interactive children’s arts play area” will also aim to activate the riverbank area. The area’s outdoor amphitheatre will face demolition as part of the planned redevelopment after being plagued by concrete degradation and logistical factors rendering it unsuitable to host regular performances. While the plans will certainly help the Centre integrate with the new developments taking place around it, other than bolstering their capacity to host big ticket events the upgrade does little to address some of the more structural difficulties facing the Arts in South Australia. The precinct’s limited ability to meet the growing needs of the community and annual Arts calendar has had repercussions across the city, with the need for rehearsal and administrative space for the State Theatre Company prompting a reassessment of Government-owned property elsewhere. A proposal flagged last year to re-house some of the State Theatre Company’s operations to form a cultural hub in the West End may see live venue Fowler’s Live close in 2015 as part of the reshuffle. Those hopeful for the construction of new dedicated rehearsal and performance spaces as part of any Festival Centre upgrade – such as new space accommodate the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra – will probably be disappointed by the new plans. Read the full announcement and a more detailed plan of the redevelopment here.

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