Stage set for Joondalup’s new performing arts centre

An artist’s impression of the proposed Joondalup performing arts facility.
An artist’s impression of the proposed Joondalup performing arts facility.

THE proposed $97.6 million Joondalup performing arts centre (JPACF) project has progressed to the next stage.

The need for a regional performing arts and cultural facility was identified in the 1992 Joondalup Cultural Plan, with land for the proposed project bought in 2006 at 3 Teakle Court, Joondalup.

A feasibility study in 2012 reinforced there was a significant under-provision of these facilities in Perth’s northern corridor and a report in 2013 indicated there was a shortage of performing arts venues in Perth and a growing demand for suitable facilities.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, councillors noted the project’s 560-page business case, developed over several years with input from expert consultants, performing arts facility managers, the Department of Culture and the Arts and Perth Theatre Trust, and supported progressing the project to the schematic design stage.

Joondalup Mayor Troy Pickard said the decision was the first formal approval to proceed with the project.

“This decision was almost a make-or-break for the entire project and I am extremely pleased that it has brought about a green light to progress to the next stage,” he said.

“The JPACF (Joondalup performing arts and cultural facility) is an investment by the council and the City in greater social capital, as well as arts and culture, it will drive greater economic development opportunity and it further positions Joondalup as a major tourist hub.

“Joondalup is at the heart of Perth’s northern corridor, one of Australia’s fastest growing regions where the population is expected to grow to 535,000 people by 2036.

“This region needs a performing arts and cultural facility to service that population.”

Mr Pickard said though the project would be predominantly funded by the City, including an ongoing annual contribution of $818,000 for operating costs, there was an expectation of significant State and Federal government contributions.

“The JPACF warrants investment at both State and Federal level with its regional significance evidenced by the fact the City intends to fund the lion’s share of the project,” he said.

“It is important to note that three years ago the City commenced restructuring its strategic financial management plan to ensure we had the capacity to accommodate the project.”

He said the City had $18 million in reserves for the facility, forecast to grow to $45 million after the sale of unused land and land holdings in the Catalina estate.

He said the schematic design stage would enable the council to more accurately assess overall costs of the development and provide a level of detail required for the City to campaign for funding from State and Federal governments and Oppositions to align with elections.

“Upon completion of this stage, the council will have the option to reassess the status of the project before proceeding to the design development stage,” he said.

At the meeting, many councillors expressed concerns about the cost of the project but most agreed it was important to invest the $1.25 million to progress to the schematic stage to enable to the City to lobby for external funding.

However, Cr Tom McLean said he could no longer support the project, saying the cost was “far too much to ask our ratepayers to bear”.

“Going back to the beginning, quite a few years ago, I supported the idea of a performing arts centre. Since then, it has grown in scope and cost,” he said.

“Today we’re faced with a project estimated to cost $97.6 million, with borrowings of $48 million and an operation subsidy of over $800,000 a year.”

At the meeting, Mr Pickard said before opening the facility it would be his suggestion to “dedicate 1 per cent of the City’s rate rise for that year towards the facility”, which would generate the yearly $818,000 contribution.

“It would be a once-off investment in culture and social capital from our community and one that I feel the majority in our community would be willing to contribute towards,” he said.

Cr McLean said with the struggling economy, the pressure on the City’s ratepayers was increasing.

“I don’t wish to add to their problems,” he said.

“I want to leave a legacy, not a burden, which I think unfortunately the cultural centre is destined to be.

“The schematic designs will confirm what I think we already know; we should disengage from the process and move on.”

The proposed facility design includes a lyric theatre of 850 seats, a 200-seat ‘black box’ theatre and a variety of rehearsal spaces that could also cater for small performances and general community activities.

It also includes a dedicated art gallery with curatorial space, a bar and catering facilities as well as offices, managerial spaces and car parking.

It is expected to create almost 150 direct and 500 indirect jobs during construction, as well as up to 40 full-time employees per year after opening, and add $2 million to the local economy.