Ryrie Street Redevelopment transforming the streetscape
The $38.5 million Ryrie Street Redevelopment is reinvigorating the cultural heart of our city.
Funded by the Victorian Government with some philanthropic support, the transformation of the centre’s Ryrie Street entrance is well underway.
The skyline is changing shape with the tower crane now in place following extensive and time-consuming demolition work.
When completed in 2019, the centre will boast a striking new Ryrie Street entrance, improved accessibility including much-needed universal access to The Playhouse, new rehearsal and dance studios, as well as taking the visitor experience ‘next-level’ with beautiful new foyer and bar areas.
A major public art commission will complete the design with an iconic artwork to be created for the centre’s eastern exterior wall.
The redevelopment will meet the needs of the city’s growing creative industry, with a space dedicated for use by creative practitioners and organisations.
Designed by international Melbourne-based architecture studio, HASSELL, and built by award-winning Kane Constructions, the project will redefine the centre.
The design blends the old and the new, introducing a modern translucent facade, and revealing the facade of the old Steeple Church.
This new building will be a landmark facility and creative hub that will make Geelong even more attractive to new business, investors, tourists and residents.
The centre has remained a hive of activity throughout the redevelopment, with performances and events continuing in the theatres and foyer.
Steeped in history
Demolition of the former shops and dance studios on Ryrie St began in November 2017 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 ‘Steeple 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 Band of Hope building and Plaza Theatre were incorporated into the new Geelong Performing 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.
Many materials and fittings from the former buildings including leadlight glass windows, pressed tin from the ceiling, timber flooring, and even sandstone footings will find their way into new locations and uses as the project team actively seeks opportunities to re-purpose items from the site.
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.
For more information visit our Redevelopment Website.