Arts Precinct works to start in June

Arts Precinct works to start in June
David Schout

Early works on the $1.7 billion Melbourne Arts Precinct transformation will begin in June, ahead of major construction getting underway in 2023.

The initial works — recently awarded to construction group Lendlease — will relocate “critical shared utilities” to ensure that the NGV and Arts Centre Melbourne can continue operating throughout construction.

Site investigations and ground testing will also be undertaken as part of early works on the city-shaping project in Southbank.

According to the Victorian Government, the preliminary works are integral to the wider refurbishment of the State Theatre, which is set to feature upgraded rehearsal spaces, new loading docks for larger productions and new restaurants and bar spaces.

It will also include improved accessibility and acoustics.

“These early works will deliver hundreds of jobs and signify the beginning of an exciting new era for the state’s creative sector,” Minister for the Creative Industries Danny Pearson said.

“Victorians love the Arts Precinct, and it has served us well – but the transformation will take that to a new plane, entertaining and illuminating us for decades to come and bringing visitors from around the world.”

The transformation of Southbank’s Arts Precinct is headlined by Australia’s soon-to-be largest gallery dedicated to contemporary art and design, and a large, elevated deck featuring a football field-sized area of open space, including areas for outdoor art and performances.

In April designs were revealed for the new gallery, which was soon after renamed “The Fox: NGV Contemporary” after a landmark $100 million donation from Lindsay and Paula Fox to the project.

At this early stage, the government has projected that the entire project would be completed in 2028.

Speaking at a Yarra River Business Association (YRBA) forum in April, Melbourne Arts Precinct director Michael Parry said despite the considerable works to come, disruption would be kept to a minimum.

“Part of the reason it’s going to take quite an extended period of time is that we are keeping a lot of the existing facilities operational throughout this time,” he said.

“The NGV International will remain operational right throughout this development. The Theatres building — despite all the incredible amount of work we’re doing behind the scenes underground and the complexity there — will continue operating throughout that period. So, the Fairfax and the Playhouse will continue operating right through this period.”

Mr Parry said “The Fox” would not only become Australia’s largest gallery, but rival world-renowned venues in global cities around the world.

“It’s going to be a complete game-changer,” he said.

“NGV is already one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest galleries; this will now take NGV to being one of the largest galleries anywhere in the world. We are rivalling the Tate (in London), we are rivalling the Met (The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City) — it’s going to be a significant shift on the global playing field, and we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.”

There was still some concern from Southbankers about how the project’s elevated deck above Sturt St would impact lower pedestrian areas directly to the west, with fears of dark and unappealing undercroft spaces. •

Caption: Preliminary works on the $1.7 billion transformation of Melbourne’s Arts Precinct begin this month.

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