Community & Environment

What’s the future for the Founders site?

What the future for the Founders site?

Hamilton City Council is seeking community feedback on options for the Founders site, including removing the theatre building and turning the space into a new inner-city park.

The Council has put forward three possible options and will seek feedback until 3 November.

Mayor Paula Southgate said, personally, she hoped the site would be transformed into a vibrant community green space for Hamilton families and inner-city residents to relax and play.

“This is a really fantastic, inner-city site and we have a wonderful opportunity to do something with it that will serve the city well for years to come. Personally, I would love to see the site become an outdoor performance space that is people-focused and honours the history of the site,” she said.

“But let’s see what people have to say. We need all realistic options considered and costed before we make funding decisions for our Long-Term Plan, so we can put the issue of Founders to bed.”

Founders Theatre was closed in 2016 due to safety concerns over the operation of the stage house fly system, fire and other safety hazard protection.

The building, which opened in 1962, is also earthquake-prone. Estimates for restoration have ranged from $12M to $20M.

Council is asking the community whether the Founders site on Tristram Street should be turned into a basic park or a multi-purpose park suitable for events, community activities and informal play (the preferred option). Hamiltonians are also being asked for their ideas on what could be included in a multi-purpose park.

Interested parties can also submit a proposal for a third option that keeps the building partly or fully intact for an alternative purpose. Submitters should provide a business plan and a long-term funding proposal.

The feedback process closes on 3 November. The public can have their say online through Council’s engagement portal or by filling in a feedback form from library branches or Council’s central city offices.

The options are based on extensive community and Council discussions and assessments over the past three and a half years. This is the third time the public has been asked for feedback on the site since it closed.

The proposal from Momentum Waikato to lead development of new theatre emerged from the first round of community engagement in 2016.

Venues, Tourism and Major Events General Manager Sean Murray said with the Waikato Regional Theatre project now well advanced, it was time to decide on the future of the Founders site.

“Founders Theatre played an important role in Hamilton’s history as our main theatre and town hall for many years. The site can be just as important for our community’s future as we work to create a more vibrant central city.”

Hamilton City Council is contributing $25M to building the 1300-seat Waikato Regional Theatre on Victoria Street, which is due to open in late 2022.

People can find out more about the options for the Founders site at two Q&A sessions:

  • Saturday 10 October, 1-3pm, Founders Theatre site, Tristram Street
  • Thursday 22 October, 4.30-7.30pm, Embassy Park, Victoria Street

Verbal submissions will be heard on 20 November and Council will consider the feedback on 8 December as part of the Long-Term Plan process.

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