Wellington City Council will soon decide on the next steps for the Town Hall project, after costs increased significantly. The option of combining this project with the redevelopment of the neighbouring Municipal Office Building is being considered. Doing so could save on some expenses but would also delay the Town Hall’s reopening.
The Town Hall, a 120-year-old heritage building, has been shut since 2013 due to earthquake risks. The estimated refurbishment costs rose from $32m to $145m in 2019. Last year, the budget increased by an additional $37m due to pandemic-related construction costs. The total projected cost now stands at over $264m, which is $81.8m more than planned.
James Roberts, the council’s chief operating officer, presented a cost breakdown:
- 2023/4: $14m
- 2024/5: $50m
- 2025/6: $48m
- 2026/7: $30m
- 2027/8: $5m
Roberts mentioned that the best option might be to allow private development of the Municipal Office Building, saving up to $64.9m. However, this would postpone the Town Hall’s reopening. If the project was stopped, the council would spend $204m with no results, potentially harming its reputation.
Demolishing the building would cost over $243m and would require legal efforts due to its heritage status. Seeking extra funds has uncertainties, and any delay will increase costs.
Council CEO Barbara McKerrow discouraged any delays, highlighting the potential harm to the council’s reputation and its partnerships with institutions such as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
A decision about the Town Hall is expected next week. If halted, the city will lack a concert venue for years since another venue, the Michael Fowler Centre, also requires upgrades.