Wellington City Council is building the facility on the former Michael Fowler Centre carpark. Site preparation began last month.
"The site has been levelled and the laying of the foundation slab starts this week," says Wellington Mayor Justin Lester. "It's an exciting part of the project when you start to see the floor and walls going up." Steel is currently being fabricated offsite and will also start arriving this week.
The Mayor, who also holds the Council’s Arts portfolio, says it is important Wellington is able to keep institutions like the Ballet while many central city buildings are strengthened. “Prefabricated buildings are becoming the norm for cities that are challenged by issues like resilience and space,” he says. “In Wellington, the fact that we can get something like this up means that we have options for our creative sector to continue thriving.”
The carpark building will house the RNZB while it vacates the St James Theatre for earthquake strengthening. The work will strengthen the St James Theatre complex to a minimum 67 per cent New Building Standard.
The Mayor says there is already interest from outside parties in occupying the MFC carpark building once the NZ Ballet returns to the St James. Council Property Manager Peter Brennan says given the closure of the Michael Fowler Centre carpark, we advise the public to plan their journeys, and leave plenty of time to find alternative parking.
The nearest alternative off-street car parks are the Civic Square car park on Harris Street, and Wilson Parking on Bond Street. They also provide mobility spaces. Work on the Town Hall has closed the northern side of Wakefield Street but people can still be dropped off in the drive-through area of the Michael Fowler Centre.
Councillor Nicola Young, who holds the associate arts and culture portfolio, says it is pleasing the ballet will stay in the city centre. “It’s great the Royal NZ Ballet (RNZB) are staying in the heart of Wellington, and I know the dancers are delighted,” she says.
NZ Ballet Executive Director Frances Turner says they are looking forward to occupying their new home soon. "The Wellington City Council is shouldering a significant burden of earthquake strengthening for its many landmark buildings around the city,” she says. “We appreciate the efforts that they have gone to in enabling the RNZB to remain a central part of Wellington's cultural heart while the works on the St James Theatre complex are being completed."