You have to give Steve Bielby full marks for enthusiasm. Over the next three months he has to complete a masterplan for the restoration of the old St James Theatre.
This includes developing a budget and a plan of works that satisfies Auckland Council bureaucrats and his property developer colleagues who are busy marketing the 39-storey apartment complex that will surround it. He also has to nail down likely contributors of the $60 million-plus the project is likely to cost.
Most of us, in his shoes, would want at least one of the above hurdles conquered before popping a champagne cork in celebration. Not Mr Bielby.
Tonight, he, Mayor Len Brown and celebrity frock designer Dame Trelise Cooper will celebrate the restoration of, wait for it, the foyer of the St James, with a "glamorous" catwalk show. By the end of the month, the foyer - dubbed "St James Lane" - will open as a 50-seat licensed daytime cafe.
It's his way of signalling the theatre, which has been closed for eight years, is back in business. Well, sort of, anyway. Reinforcing the message will be a May 2 public concert of local bands in the former stalls area. Hopefully, Mr Bielby will have removed his car from the stage by then. He's been garaging it there in recent days to avoid the mayor's voracious parking police.
Mr Bielby is the principal trustee of the Auckland Notable Properties Trust, created in 2013 by his Target retail chain family. Knowing of the trust's previous interest in the St James, Auckland Council pointed property developer Lijun Li of Relianz Holdings in Mr Bielby's direction when Mr Li last year told council officials of his plans to buy the site.
The trust is now overseeing the St James, which has to be protected - though not necessarily restored - as part of the apartment skyscraper's resource consent.
To Mr Bielby, mothballing the St James is not really an option. Under the resource consent, the two walls of the theatre adjacent to the new tower blocks have to be seismically strengthened anyway, which could lead to the weakening of the other two walls if then left unrestored.
One option being considered is to adopt the base isolation seismic protection method used for the Beehive and other parliamentary buildings, placing the theatre on huge rubber bearing pads which absorb any earthquake shocks.
He says that with cranes and experts on site, it makes economic sense to restore the theatre as the new towers go up. Given that the theatre is on the ground floor, the end result could be that the theatre is the first building on site to be completed, beating the overall 2018 target date for the whole site.
At Mr Bielby's side on Wednesday, advising on the foyer restoration, was George Farrant, Auckland City's heritage mastermind during the restoration of the Town Hall and Civic Theatre, and now on loan from Auckland Council as part of its support for the project.
Mr Farrant had unearthed a 1930 coloured postcard of the then recently opened theatre, to back his hunch that the plaster goddesses gracing the foyer were originally ivory coloured - not the later brownish "bronze" that Mr Bielby rather fancied. Ivory won.
Mr Farrant also tracked down the grandson of the Italian migrant tile layer, who had laid the original terrazzo flooring. The grandson now ran the family firm, had found the original "recipes" for the foyer's terrazzo floor tiles in the family files, and was due in to repair several large cracks.
As the two enthused about the job in hand, interrupting with questions about funding seemed like blaspheming in church. Talk about running away from home and joining the circus. In an earlier interview, Mr Bielby told me his goal was not necessarily perfection; "shabby chic" would be okay. That's still the goal.
In the past, there have been grandiose plans to enlarge the stage area and provide better backstage facilities. With the back of the stage wall on the boundary and hard up against a neighbouring property that's not for sale, that's not an option for now at least. Anyway, he's happy with a restoration of what is there. Why duplicate what is already available at the Aotea or Civic theatres, he asks.
He sees it as a less expensive venue for local shows, travelling bands, comedians and the like. The stuff that made the St James a loved venue before it closed.