Progress on the redevelopment of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House precinct is close to reaching a major milestone, at the same time as a strategic plan for the precinct and its place in the wider city centre strategy has been confirmed.
After the Opera House and neighbouring Municipal Building were closed in 2014 for earthquake strengthening, investigations found that the 12-metre high side walls of the theatre were at risk of collapse during a sizeable earthquake.
With the building constructed from unreinforced masonry, strengthening has been achieved by installing seven shear walls that carry the load of the building, made from an encased steel rod mesh pinned to the original brick wall.
Photo: Encased steel rod mesh pinned to the original brick wall forms the foundation of the new shear walls.
Plastic shuttering (or boxing) has been placed on each side of the walls and concrete poured into the recess, and section by section these new walls have been poured, plastered and painted.
With the concrete only able to be poured to a depth of two metres at any one time, this part of the total strengthening project takes 24 months to complete, and the final concrete pour was set to take place this week.
It’s a big job that requires a lot of concrete and steel. To date 260 tonnes of concrete have been poured, 70 tonnes of reinforcement steel and installed along with 96 tonnes of structural steel.
Meanwhile, Hastings councillors last week adopted the 2019-2021 strategic plan for the project, setting out what needs to be achieved to reopen the Opera House and Plaza by February next year, and the Municipal building in 2021.
Since the buildings were closed in 2014, the vision has been to bring this iconic home for performing arts back to life as the cultural heart of Hastings and Hawke’s Bay.
Over the years building works have been ongoing as has consultation with iwi, community, and arts and culture practitioners and groups, and this has informed planning on how the spaces will be used once the work is complete.
The strategic plan sets forth a roadmap on how to achieve the aspirations to make the precinct a leading national performing arts venue, encourage growth in events and conferences, and be a place that creates a sense of community and acts as a gathering place for residents and visitors.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the community had been waiting a long time to get back into this building and using it again.
“We can’t wait to have national and international acts, shows, conferences coming to Hastings again.
“It will return to being a community space where we can see and hear our children sing and perform in the Opera House and where we can host balls, award nights, the Arts Festival and many other events in our city.
“This will bring our city alive with people and fun.”