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Ryrie Street Redevelopment

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Redevelopment already transforming the streetscape

Demolition work has finally revealed the former Steeple Church, an integral element in Geelong Performing Arts Centre’s new-look Ryrie St entrance.

The $38.5 million Ryrie St Redevelopment - funded by the Victorian Government with some philanthropic support - will create a striking new entrance, improve access to the centre and provide four dance and rehearsal studios.

Demolition of the former shops and dance studios began in November and has been a delicate, brick-by-brick process due to the complexity of the buildings and the integration of the old church into the new design.

The church opened in 1857 and was decommissioned in 1914 when the congregation moved to Newtown and the building was purchased by the Band of Hope Union.

The steeple was dismantled and a new building, incorporating a strip of shops, was built around the church, between Barwon Water and the former Mechanics Institute (and Plaza Theatre).

The main hall of the church was leased to Geelong Association of Music and Art (GAMA) in 1946 and converted into a 280-seat theatre.

The adjacent Mechanics Institute was destroyed by fire in 1920s then rebuilt as the 950-seat Plaza Theatre.

By the 1950s, both the Plaza Theatre and GAMA theatres were deemed “hopelessly obsolete” but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the push for a new theatre gained momentum.

The State Government of the time agreed to pay $2 for every $1 raised through community fundraising efforts. After three years, and with $800,000 raised from the community (plus corporate sponsorships), the current Geelong Performing Arts Centre was built at a total cost of $7.8 million.

The Band of Hope building and Plaza Theatre were incorporated into the new arts centre which opened in 1981, boasting two theatres - the Ford Theatre (now The Playhouse) and the Blakiston (now Drama Theatre). Dance studios were accommodated in the former Steeple Church and upstairs of the former Mechanics Institute.

The Playhouse underwent a major facelift in 2010 (re-opening in 2011), however the rest of the centre has remained largely unchanged since it was built 37 years ago.

The Ryrie Street redevelopment is expected to be completed by the first half of 2019.

Ryrie St access closed

Due to the redevelopment works, access to Geelong Performing Arts Centre from Ryrie St is no longer be available and parking outside the building is also impacted .

We urge visitors to the centre to allow extra time for parking and arrival for performances during this time.

Access to the centre through the main Little Malop St entrance will not be affected during the redevelopment.


About the Ryrie Street Redevelopment 

Geelong Performing Arts Centre is being redeveloped to improve access, provide more rehearsal areas along with increased community and creative spaces.

The $38.5 million redevelopment - funded by the Victorian Government and some philanthropic support - will create a striking new entrance, improve access to the centre and provide new dance and rehearsal studios.

The region’s large dance community is set to be one of the big winners in the redevelopment, with four new studios to open. The redevelopment will also reveal the walls of the historic church, improve the visitor experience by providing two new foyers and a bar area, and introduce new spaces for use by creative practitioners and organisations.

Designed by international Melbourne-based architecture studio, HASSELL, the project will redefine GPAC, its connection with the CBD and its position as Victoria’s leading regional performing arts centre.

Award-winning builders Kane Constructions have been appointed to deliver the project. 

The Ryrie Street redevelopment follows a major overhaul of the 750-seat Playhouse Theatre, the much loved heart of GPAC, in 2010.

The redevelopment will ensure the centre becomes the Geelong Region’s creative hub and make Geelong even more attractive to new business, investors, tourists and residents.

 For more information visit our Redevelopment Website.


Public Art Commission Update

The first stage of the Public Art Commission closed last month, and sixty four (64) submissions were received, from acclaimed and emerging artists.

Local, state, national and international artists, including Geelong,  submitted expressions of interest to Creative Victoria.

Each submission was reviewed, considering elements such as concept, feasibility, experience, and durability.

The second stage,  to narrow the field down to three (3),  proved too difficult a task, given the quality of applications.

Thanks to additional funding support from the City of Greater Geelong, the concept development stage now commences with five (5) artists, and each has been directed to develop their initial concept up to a final submission.

An announcement regarding the successful commission will be made soon.

For further information regarding the Geelong Performing Arts Centre Redevelopment, please go to our Redevelopment Website.



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