Designs for a new Waikato Regional Theatre unveiled at Thursday's Hamilton City Council meeting were received with praise and support from councillors who voted unanimously to further develop the concept.
The 6200sqm theatre site is occupied by the 94-year-old former Hamilton Hotel building in Victoria Street. It backs onto the Waikato River with Embassy Park on one side and Sapper Horace Moore-Jones Place on the other.
The $72.9 million theatre will have an estimated 1100 seats with a lobby area overlooking the river, for informal performances or a place of gathering.
Momentum Waikato teamed up with theatre design consultancy Charcoalblue to deliver this latest vision for the Hamilton river front. The cost is expected to be met by $30 million from local councils, $30 million from the community and $10 million from central government.
The theatre design includes a privately developed lifestyle art hotel, public art gallery and retail space, allowing for shared spaces for meetings, conferences and events.
The cost of incorporating the hotel, gallery and retail spaces are not included the estimates and it is hoped these will be developed privately,
If funding is confirmed later this year, the building could open by July 2021.
The proposal sparked many positive comments from elected members at Thursday's council meeting.
"[It's on] the most stunning site in Hamilton City, I really do believe it is the best site," Mayor Andrew King said.
"I'm really excited about what you guys are going to do, you've turned obligations into opportunity," Cr Mark Bunting said.
"It's not the council saying we think we should have the theatre here, it's the community leading it which excites me most about it."
Cr Angela O'Leary believed that the concept was tremendous and it was a shame the building would take so long to construct.
"If this is done right, today you could probably say it's one small step for Momentum, but if it's done right it could be a giant leap for Hamilton, I'm looking forward to everything coming together." Cr James Casson said.
"Three words from me, I love it. I love the concept, I particularly love the site chosen for this project, I think it is visionary and there is massive synergy with our river plan," Cr Geoff Taylor said.
While the concept received high praise, concerns were raised over the issues of costing, parking and the old Founders Theatre the new complex will replace.
The 55-year-old Founders Theatre closed last year due to earthquake risk concerns.
Cr Paula Southgate was won over by the opportunity that Hamilton can do something transformational, yet had questions over the parking at the new venue.
The design does not include on-site parking, with the report outlining the site is close to about 2200 car parks and residential parking zones.
"The older people want to feel safe and be quite close to the foyer, and of course they could do that at Founders, but also access to disability [parking]," Cr Southgate said.
Cr Casson wanted to make sure that other councils such as Waipa also play their part in funding the new theatre to help with the costs.
Deputy Mayor Martin Gallagher was impressed by the design, but had concerns over the confidence of obtaining $10 million in funding from central government in the timeframe with the election in full swing.
Cr Garry Mallett was supportive of the project going ahead but had major concerns about the issue of money and the prospect of keeping the Founders Theatre as well.
"I struggle with the current financial situation that the council is in, I think it is just lala land madness to think we that we can have both of them, there is a degree where we have to be grown ups and say, well if we're going to have the new one, something else has to go."
"I don't know what my colleagues are really thinking, you all know that we are $12 million in the hole."
"I'm really really concerned that we've got a case of the vapours going on around the council and we've forgotten where we are."
The council will further discuss the proposal when it meets on September 21, including further consideration of the cost implications for ratepayers.