Work starts today on $1-million upgrade of Rathmines Community Hall to deliver performing arts centre

RATHMINES can look forward to new facilities for live theatre and music concerts in an old building from next year.

Work started today on a $1 million upgrade of the heritage-listed Rathmines Community Hall.

The work will transform the 1930s-built hall into a modern community and performing arts centre.

The state government and Lake Macquarie City Council are funding the project.

The hall has been closed to the community since October, 2015, due to maintenance problems and the discovery of asbestos in the building.

Mayor Kay Fraser inspected the site this morning.

"The refurbishment of this heritage-listed building will see this well-loved community hall transform into a modern community, cultural and performing arts venue for the Westlakes area," Cr Fraser said.

The redevelopment of the venue will include.-

  • modern audio-visual equipment and lighting;
  • two 'green rooms' for performers;
  • new meeting rooms;
  • improved ventilation;
  • new bathrooms and amenities;
  • installation of disabled parking;
  • accessible ramp and lift; and
  • new landscaping.

"Once complete, the site will be the ideal venue for theatrical, dance and musical performances, festivals, pop-up galleries and exhibitions, meetings and events," Cr Fraser said.

Such a venue was much needed in the Westlakes area, she said.

"A lot of community groups in this area will get their venue back."

Council's community assets delivery coordinator, Brent Wellham, said the community had endured a long wait, but their patience would be rewarded.

"We're not just retaining the building, we're delivering a very functional and improved facility," Mr Wellham said.

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He said the delays had been caused by the challenges involved in the asbestos removal, and negotiating the requirements of the State Heritage Office while implementing modern construction codes.

The plan was to create a performing arts space at Rathmines that was comparable to Warners Bay Performing Arts Centre and the $2-million Multi Arts Place (MAP) to be built at Speers Point, he said.

The hall's former use as a picture theatre and gymnasium for airman at the RAAF base at Rathmines would be honoured in the upgraded building, Mr Wellham said.

The former billiards room in the hall would be transformed into a museum-type space displaying historical items and information about the site's wartime story, he said.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, John Barilaro, welcomed the start of work on the hall.

"After years of maintenance issues, Rathmines Community Hall will finally receive the improvements the community has been waiting for," Mr Barilaro said.

"It gives me great pleasure to be able say that the NSW Government has had a hand in making this happen through the Stronger Country Communities Fund, a program that is helping regional councils right across the state to deliver hundreds of great community infrastructure projects, just like this one."

Local contractor North Construction and Building will complete the refurbishment of the hall.

The company's managing director Matthew Cook said his team was looking forward to the project.

"After working at length with council and consultants on the design development for this project we are excited to turn the sod and commence works on this much loved heritage-listed building and deliver a project which allows for practical use," Mr Cook said.

Works are expected to be complete by mid-2020.

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