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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 centre is working with partners Hassell Studio, Development Victoria, Creative Victoria, Regional Development Victoria to plan and design a landmark cultural facility that will become much more than just a performing arts centre.

The $38.5 million redevelopment, funded by the Victorian Government and some philanthropic support, will become the Geelong Region’s creative hub and make Geelong even more attractive to new business, investors, tourists and residents.

The construction contract is expected to be awarded in August 2017, with work to begin later this year. 

The redevelopment will:

  • Create a striking new and accessible entrance on Ryrie Street into the Arts Centre 
  • Reveal the walls of the historic church
  • Improve accessibility with universal access to the Playhouse Theatre and studios 
  • Improve the visitor experience, providing two new foyers and bar area
  • Introduce new spaces for use by creative practitioners and organisations 
  • Include two new state-of-the-art studios/rehearsal spaces for community use and capacity for more as demand grows 



Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much will this project cost and who is paying for it?

The Ryrie Street Redevelopment is expected to cost $38.5 million funded by the Victorian Government ($30 million from Regional Development Victoria’s ‘Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund’ and $7 million from Creative Victoria) and philanthropic support. This includes disruption to business funding and additional operational costs for the centre during the redevelopment. The Victorian Government funding was first announced in the 2015/16 Budget.

Q. When will the redevelopment begin?

The project has begun. Early site investigations have been completed and the design is almost complete, with work due to start in the second half of 2017.

Q. How long will the redevelopment take?

Once construction commences, it is currently expected to take up to 18 months.

Q. How many people will be employed on the project?

It is expected that more than 100 jobs will be created during construction based on the current design. This figure will be reviewed closer to construction.

Q. What will be delivered in this stage of works?

This project will:

- Create a striking new and accessible Ryrie Street entrance to the Arts Centre
- Reveal the historic church
- Improve accessibility within the centre with universal access to the Playhouse Theatre and studios
- Improve the visitor experience, including two new foyers and a bar area
- Introduce new spaces for use by creative practitioners and organisations
- provide two new state-of-the-art studios/rehearsal spaces and additional capacity for more studios as demand grows, ensuring the centre remains relevant and adaptable to future needs.
- incorporate dedicated spaces for a broader range of creative and education activities, creative entrepreneurs, children and youth, creative and production development.

Q. How much bigger will Geelong Performing Arts Centre be after the Ryrie Street Redevelopment?

The exciting and long overdue improvements will increase accessibility across the venue and fit out professional studios for classes, rehearsals and performing arts development.

The Ryrie Street redevelopment will see a 1994sqm increase to the current space, including returning The Playhouse balcony back to its original capacity.

Q. Why has there been a delay in getting the project started?

This is a very complex project joining extensive new facilities to the existing former Plaza Theatre and St David’s Church.

Prior to commencement of construction on the site, significant work has been happening behind the scenes, including planning, detailed design, heritage work and site investigations

This is a transformational project for Geelong Performing Arts Centre and for Geelong’s CBD so it’s important we get it right.

Q. What are the plans for the Church

The project will include work to reveal the walls of the original church on Ryrie Street and integrate it into the wider arts centre complex.

It will be continue to operate as a studio and rehearsal space and available for community use after this stage of the redevelopment is complete.

Initial design work for a full conversion of the interior into a performance space has been undertaken and this is part of our longer term aspiration for the site.

Q. What benefits are there for the community?

The redevelopment will:

  • Be a key project in the revitalisation of Geelong’s CBD and particularly the cultural precinct
  • Transform and reinvigorate Ryrie Street with striking architecture and a major new entrance
  • Provide vibrant new public spaces and offer facilities for local artists and community that are second to none and accessible to all
  • Deliver great cultural facilities that will make the city attractive to new business, investors, tourists and residents
  • Be a major driver of the economic growth of Geelong
  • Create jobs and stimulate the local economy particularly during its construction.

Q. What benefits are there for the broader region and Victoria?

The creative and cultural economy is growing more quickly than the broader economy. As a key part of the creative industries, Geelong Performing Arts Centre will deliver economic, social and cultural benefits to Geelong and the region.

Creative and cultural industries play a key role across virtually every area of society – from education and health, to justice, science, innovation, business and community development – thereby addressing disadvantage and contributing to the cultural, social and economic fabric of communities.

Q. Will the redevelopment adversely impact activities at the Arts Centre?

We will do everything possible to minimise disruptions to daily activities during the construction phase. However there will be impacts to the availability of studio spaces for a period, as the current studios will be demolished to make way for upgraded facilities.

The Playhouse balcony will also be closed for a period. We will provide further details as the construction schedule is finalised and we will provide as much notice as possible regarding any impacts.

Q. When will work take place?

Work will be scheduled in a way that will minimise disruption to visitors, performances, staff and neighbours. A construction schedule will be published when available.

Q. Will you be speaking with community and user groups during the redevelopment?

Input from key internal and external stakeholders has been essential in guiding the project and its design since its inception.

Geelong Performing Arts Centre has and will continue to meet and communicate regularly with community and user groups throughout this project.

Q. Why can’t we just make do with the existing facilities?

The centre is 36 years old, not up to current building standards and no longer meets the needs and expectations of artists and audiences. More than 225,000 visitors pass through its doors each year, and with that number continuing to grow as the population builds to 500,000, the centre needs more space to support and accommodate everyone.

Geelong’s vibrant cultural offering, includes access to top international performances, and creative programs for kids and families that are second to none. Your local arts centre needs to continue to support this into the future.

WorkSafe, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the National Disability Insurance Agency, Geelong Epworth, Department of Human Services, Deakin, The Gordon and Barwon Health all need to attract a new workforce and liveability will be the key to Geelong’s competitive advantage and this includes arts and cultural offerings.

Q. What is the benefit for artists and the creative community?

The improved spaces will begin to address and demonstrate the changing role of arts organisations in the 21st century where they can support and facilitate new creative engagement through a multitude of different platforms and channels.

The redevelopment will provide:

  • Built-for-purpose studios including the development of a large rehearsal studio, approximating the size of the Playhouse stage, supported by theatre technology and professional fittings 
  • A powerful opportunity to integrate creative entrepreneurs with Arts Centre activities 
  • Creative Industry space to identify, nurture and promote the most promising and emerging performing arts talent and creative entrepreneurs
  • Support the development and profile of the Creative Industries within Geelong and position Geelong Performing Arts Centre at the heart of the emerging creative precinct
  • Opportunity for a resident professional performing arts company to develop and export from Geelong 
  • Opportunity for growth with provision for future studios/rehearsal spaces as demand grows.

Q. Who is the architect?

Hassell Studio’s Mark Loughnan, who was raised in Geelong, is the Lead Architect. Hassell is a leading international design practice with studios in Australia, China, South East Asia and the United Kingdom.

Q. Who is the project manager?

Development Victoria is the project manager for the Ryrie Street Redevelopment. Development Victoria is the Victorian Government’s new property development and civic projects agency.

Q. Will Geelong Performing Arts Centre lose any services?

The Arts Centre is incredibly proud to host some of the world’s best productions and just as proud to enable community creativity and performance.

This project is about improving services and activities to a wider community, not diminishing them.

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