Hall restored to its former glory

By Michael Roberts | posted on September 18, 2020

THE finishing touches on a $4.1 million redevelopment of Albany’s Town Hall is nearing completion, with a soft opening planned for December.

Returning the historic site back to its former glory, restoration and upgrade works started in October will transform the Town Hall into a multi-functional venue open 364 days a year.

The Town Hall’s ground floor has been revamped into a multi-media gallery space fit for high-end exhibitions, while the upstairs theatre has been reverted back to a flat floor that allows it to be hired out for public events.

An old asbestos roof has been replaced, while original building features including wooden floors, window features and stonework have been reinstated.

It’s the first time the circa 1888 heritage building has been renovated since 1983.

Speaking to media after a tour of the construction works last week, City of Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington said the Town Hall had been underutilised in its previous form.

“It was getting used 48 days of the year, which is a waste of time when it’s costing you about $180,000 worth of maintenance,” he said.

“It’s been an iconic building for a long time, we have to maintain it as such, so it’s better it can be used. They’ve done a terrific job.”

Mr Wellington said the project recognised how important arts and culture is to the Albany community.

“More people went to art shows last year than went to the AFL,” he said.

“Culture and the arts is a very big, important part of what we do. We tended to neglect that a little bit. This will correct that.”

City of Albany allocated $3 million towards the upgrades in its 2019/2020 financial budget, while Lotterywest and the State Government chipped in $1 million and $100,000 respectively.

Acting Community Services Executive Director Nathan Watson said the revamped climate-controlled exhibition area would help entice notable artists to tour the port city.

“It allows the city to attract a higher quality of touring exhibitions because we have a space that meets the standards and allows us to bring some of those things to the region that otherwise might not have come here,” he said.

With an official opening planned around Easter next year, City of Albany Arts and Culture Manager Paul Nielsen said the ground floor exhibition area was booked out until April 2022.

He said the City would work with local artists to put on their own shows.

“There will be a few curated call-out windows for local artists to put up their hand to work with trained City staff to put on a quality exhibition in a quality exhibition space in the middle of town,” he said.

“We haven’t had that in the past.

“It’s important from an exhibition space to support a variety of media and performance installations, rather than just hanging things on a wall.”