This is one of the city's saddest walks.

In the Herald's new series Take a Walk, we visit a precious heritage building now locked off to the public, its $67 million restoration stalled for a year with no sign of a re-start.

We see the site of the historic and once-mighty St James Theatre. Work to restore it stopped last August with only small tours conducted in May.

It's meant to be grand and open to the public like the Civic Theatre nearby and also on Queen St.


Instead, we have signage and hoardings on Queen St, with hardly any hint of the St James behind, opposite Aotea Square.

The theatre is there and is almost completely intact but the public just can't get inside any more.

A $250m 39-level apartment building was meant to be built next to it, but that's been cancelled.

Steve Bielby, in charge of the restoration, said all works were suspended. He can't get access to any funds till he has an "operational theatre" – and he can't get that until a new building goes up beside.

This is a once-splendid 1928 building, which Heritage NZ says is nationally significant, one of the best preserved vaudeville theatres in New Zealand.

Its interior is almost intact. The theatre hosted the Bolshoi Ballet, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in its heyday.