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Save the St James Theatre

News story
Wednesday 17 Aug 2022

A new push to secure government funding to match that already in place, and a recent decision to uncouple the theatre’s restoration from the St James Block apartment development project, may well mean this once majestic place in the heart of our city can rise again soon.

Historically the St James Theatre has made a vital contribution to the social and cultural experience of Auckland’s city centre and is of undoubted national significance. It has been closed since a fire in 2007.

Its restoration plans were originally designed to happen in tandem with the construction of an apartment complex above the theatre. The projects were set to begin in 2017 – and most of the apartments were sold – when a bank pulled the funding.  Because the projects relied on each other, both have been stalled ever since. 

Until now. Steve Bielby, Director of St James Holdings LTD and Trustee of Auckland Notable Properties Trust has recently made the decision to uncouple the theatre’s restoration project from the St James apartment tower.

By doing this, the theatre restoration project can progress independently of the apartment project. Once all the funding and approvals are in place for the restoration, Bielby indicated in The Spinoff that the theatre restoration is anticipated to take two years, then another two years for the apartment complex to be completed.

However, there needs to be more funding to unlock the next phase of the St James Theatre’s restoration. $15 million of funding has been approved by Auckland Council, as well as $1.5 million from Heritage New Zealand.

St James Theatre interior. Image from Auckland Council.

The government is being asked to match Council’s contributions to ensure that the theatre will be fully restored, and Heart of the City is amplifying this call.

We’ve been passionate supporters of its restoration and want to see its future secured. It brings with it such a rich history and a fully functioning theatre would play a significant role in this part of the city centre’s regeneration, it would bring life, vitality and richness to the city’s arts and cultural precinct. It has been sorely missed since 2007 and we want to see it back – we’ve written to Hon. Kiri Allan urging the government to fund the much-needed $15M to match other funding already committed.

MP for Auckland Central Chlöe Swarbrick shows the extent of the recent damage done to the St James Theatre in a recently released video. There is also a Save the St James Theatre petition, which can be signed here

Information about the St James Apartment Tower can be found here