A labour of love for the Swan River Ballet’s new home

Michele Cleaver-Wilkinson at the entrance to the Newmarket Hotel. |Picture: Jon Hewson |www.communitypix.com.au d446895
Michele Cleaver-Wilkinson at the entrance to the Newmarket Hotel. |Picture: Jon Hewson |www.communitypix.com.au d446895

THE redevelopment of one of Cockburn’s most iconic buildings should be finished by February, its owner says.

The 103-year-old Newmarket Hotel, on the corner of Rockingham and Cockburn roads, has been vacant for some time, with numerous development attempts failing.

But the heritage-listed building, purchased early last year for about $1.15 million, is on track to re-open as a studio for Swan River Ballet in February.

After running a successful dance studio in Karratha, owner Michele Cleaver-Wilkinson said the building offered the perfect setting for a new metro-based studio on the coast.

“This opportunity came up last year and my husband and I loved it,” the Shenton Park resident said.

“I think it’s perfect because it has a lovely sense of history and belonging.

“It’s been here for 100 years and you feel like it could be here for another 100 years – there’s no reason why it can’t. I think people will love it once they’ve been in here and experienced it.”

The job to bring it back to life is a mammoth one.

The two-storey Federation Filigree style building, popular with the local horse racing industry from the early 1900s to the 1970s, had deteriorated badly.

Despite being “the most derelict place” she had seen in a long time, Ms Cleaver-Wilkinson said the potential was undeniable.

“I saw the potential even in the dark,” she said.

“It’s a $2 million investment but it’s not something we’re going to do for the short term. We want to be here for a long time and you’ve got to take a risk with things you’re passionate about.”

The dance teacher said the revamp had attracted plenty of interest from connections in the arts.

“We want people to enjoy it,” she said.

“It’s not ‘shut the doors’.

“We want our doors open and we want people to come in and experience it.”

The repair efforts will be helped by the State Government, which is contributing $100,000 to restore the front facade to its original state.

Ms Cleaver-Wilkinson said the studio would offer students a real opportunity to turn their passion into a profession.

Enrolments will be taken between 9am and 5pm on December 12 and 13 at the studio.