Proposed public amphitheater and arts hub for central Christchurch site

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The Hexagon is a proposed new theater center for a site in the performing arts district in central Christchurch.

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The Hexagon is a proposed new theater center for a site in the performing arts district in central Christchurch.

A $4 million outdoor theater and arts center has been proposed for a central Christchurch site formerly intended for a new Wilson Parking building.

Theater producer and founder of Little Andromeda, Michael Bell is part of a group offering a public amphitheater, rehearsal space, co-working space for artists, landscaping and a food truck area for the Gloucester St site .

Christchurch City Council originally planned to sell the empty 2,000 square meter plot to Wilson Parking, but that proposal was scrapped after a public backlash in March.

The amphitheater could be used for summer festivals, sports screenings and outdoor theater, its supporters say.

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The amphitheater could be used for summer festivals, sports screenings and outdoor theater, its supporters say.

The site is part of the Performing Arts Precinct Rebuild Anchor Project and sits between the Isaac Theater Royal and the planned site for a new Court Theatre, due to open next year.

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* Christchurch council could put the Performing Arts District site up for grabs
* Call for contractors brings new Court Theater building closer to reality

Bell presented the project, tentatively called The Hexagon, to city councilors Monday evening during the annual plan hearings.

He said the project could be built and operated by council and called on councilors to include the proposal in the annual budget.

“We were quite happy that the city council decided not to put parking on this land. We thought we should come up with something alternative to put out there,” he said.

Christchurch theater producer and Little Andromeda founder Michael Bell hopes the council will fund the project.

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Christchurch theater producer and Little Andromeda founder Michael Bell hopes the council will fund the project.

“We’re asking the council to set aside $2-4 million to basically glorify the landscaping they’re going to do on the site anyway.

“We want this land to be retained by council ownership for future generations.”

He said the amphitheater could be used for summer festivals like Bread & Circus, sports screenings and outdoor theater.

“It will make life easier for these festivals, because having ready-to-use outdoor infrastructure takes a lot of the installation costs out of the way.”

L'Hexagone is a proposed new theater center for a site in the Performing Arts District that was previously reserved for a Wilson Parking building.

Provided

L’Hexagone is a proposed new theater center for a site in the Performing Arts District that was previously reserved for a Wilson Parking building.

Bell said ongoing site maintenance costs would be offset by rent for the coworking spaces.

“The investment would hopefully last for decades.”

Bell proposed the new theater center with Nathaniel Herz-Erdinger, the Canterbury community organizer for the Living Wage Movement, and Green Lab program director Khye Hitchcock.

The Théâtre de la Cour is planned for the site being developed in the background, while L'Hexagone is proposed for the empty site in the foreground serving as a car park.  (File photo from March).

ALDEN WILLIAMS / Stuff

The Théâtre de la Cour is planned for the site being developed in the background, while L’Hexagone is proposed for the empty site in the foreground serving as a car park. (File photo from March).

When the council’s proposal to sell the site to Wilson Parking emerged in March, it sparked a public backlash.

Bell told advisers at the time that selling the land would be “the laziest, least imaginative, and least shrewd way to approach one of Ōtautahi’s most valuable real estate assets”.

But Court Theater administrator Steve Wakefield said parking was essential to the viability of the planned new building for the theatre.

Councilors voted not to sell the land to Wilson and to develop options for future uses of the site.

Plans later emerged for a new parking lot at a site one block away as part of the proposed Catholic Cathedral compound.

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