The Northern Beaches Council has voted unanimously to proceed with a full feasibility study on converting the historic Manly Town Hall into a multi-purpose performance and exhibition centre.
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"We are on our way", said Northern Beaches Councillor and Chair of the Curtain's Up Community Committee, Candy Bingham. "The reuse of this iconic building as a Performing Arts Centre has been our vision for many years. Such a facility will totally transform Manly as a destination with the opportunity to attend concerts, theatre, cabaret, comedy nights, live bands, dances and perhaps see a movie. And the terrace rooftop would make an amazing bar" she enthused.
The feasibility study is budgeted to commence in the 23/24 financial year and a full report is expected by the end of this year. It follows a number of years of community consultation on what the building could be used for and a working group exploring the ideas presented.
"This is the first step in a very long process, and a very important one. Council can't really make any final decision on the use of this building until we know what would be involved in doing so. For example: Is the building suitable? What will it cost? What should be the mix of spaces and offerings? How will it be funded? Councillor Bingham explained.
The Performance Arts Centre vision, which was supported pro-bono by local architect Joshua Zoeller from CHROFI, was driven as a community project in collaboration with local artists and leaders, and was spearheaded by artist Warren Langley and former ABC arts & culture senior journalist Anne Maria Nicholson.
“The building could house a large versatile space seating around 350 people, a permanent theatre seating 100 people, a small cinema, and perhaps satellite exhibition space for the Manly Art Gallery & Museum, rehearsal space and a rooftop terrace bar”, Councillor Bingham said.
While the present building was opened in November 1937, the Manly Council
Chambers have stood on that site since 1909 as a gateway to Manly. It was the
home of Manly Council until amalgamation and the formation of the Northern Beaches
Council in 2016. The Council Chambers now operate out of the former Warringah Civic Centre at Dee Why.
Many people are familiar with the exterior of the heritage-listed building, with its Corinthian columns and imposing façade, but may be less aware of the elegant art deco interior of the upper floor. The wide staircase to the first floor features a stained-glass skylight and leads up to a gallery lined with portraits of past Mayors who have served Manly. The high-ceilinged Council Chamber still retains many of its original features including dark wood doors, and ceiling light fittings.
In the long-term the plan is to relocate the Manly Customer Service Centre within Manly’s CBD, and rehouse existing staff who are currently located in the Town Hall building.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor & Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.