by Lindsay Shelton
Good to see the mayor smiling optimistically inside the Town Hall yesterday, one day after his city council announced it was seeking “proposals” for work on the heritage building. But things aren’t as straightforward as they may seem.
The plan is for the Town Hall to be strengthened so that it can become part of a National Music Hub in which the NZSO and Victoria University would be in partnership with the council. But after two years of negotiations, the university has not yet agreed to participate. As the DomPost has confirmed:
A spokesperson from the mayor’s office said the only thing that could stop the project going ahead now was Victoria University not fully committing. Victoria University … said in a written statement it was continuing to negotiate with the council and should have enough “clarity” on the deal in the coming months to seek conditional or final approval from its governance body.
Between these two votes came the Music Hub plan. The NZSO has been committed from the start. But as yesterday’s report revealed, Victoria University has not yet signed up for the partnership. It did however participate in a decision 18 months ago to hire Athfield Architects to develop concept designs. But when that announcement was made, the university was still being cautious:
The concept designs will be pivotal as we explore the feasibility of partnering with Wellington to create a renewed vision of education, music and creative arts excellence
In April last year, the university’s vice-chancellor Grant Guilford signed a letter in the DomPost which said
Wellingtonians … can be reassured that the Wellington City Council, Victoria University and the NZ Symphony Orchestra are making good progress on the proposal to turn the town hall into a world class music hub…
But after two years of negotiations, “good progress” isn’t encouraging enough, in spite of Justin Lester’s smiles. Yesterday’s images of the mayor inside the Town Hall – which no one else can enter because it’s been closed for more than three years – are a reminder that in spite of the unanimous decisions in 2013 and 2015, and all the statements and the expectations, a definite commitment to starting work on strengthening the magnificent auditorium is still elusive.
And what is the council seeking from its “request for proposals” that is now being advertised:
The …purchase of building services engineering for the Town Hall development project. The key outcomes that we want to achieve are quality design documents so that cost certainty can be achieved throughout all phases of design and construction. Council requires Building Services Engineers experienced in delivering building services engineering in a building that is undergoing a seismic strengthening upgrade together with an interface with user group requirements within the building.
The categories are specified as
Building maintenance and repair services, new industrial building and warehouse construction services, specialized public building construction services, heating and cooling and air conditioning HVAC construction and maintenance services, electrical system services, building site preparation services, specialty building and trades services, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, instrumented control systems design and engineering services.
The deadline is 20 February. But if there’s no confirmation of Victoria University’s involvement, will the city council once again fail to start work on strengthening the Town Hall?