March 14, 2016

By Andrew Taylor, Sydney Morning Herald | 14 MAR 2016


Carriageworks will rival the Sydney Opera House and the yet-to-be completed ICC Sydney Theatre in Darling Harbour as one of the city’s biggest entertainment venues under a $50 million redevelopment plan.

The cultural centre in the historic Eveleigh Rail Yards proposes to add a 5000-seat live music venue, 200-seat cinema, large public exhibition space and cafes, bars and restaurants to its existing venues.

The Carriageworks Six-Year Strategy 2016-2021 report envisages the venue becoming a major cultural precinct with a dramatically expanded artistic program that will attract 2 million visitors and earn $15 million annually by 2021.

Carriageworks director Lisa Havilah says she will seek government funding as well as private investment to pay for the expansion at an estimated cost of $50-$60 million.

But Carriageworks will be competing for taxpayers’ money with many other cultural institutions with building plans, including the Art Gallery of NSW, Powerhouse Museum and Campbelltown Arts Centre.

The NSW government has already allocated $202 million to the Sydney Opera House and $139 million to redevelop Walsh Bay from its $600 million cultural infrastructure fund.

The Six-Year Strategy, which will be released in April, involves renovating other buildings that are part of Eveleigh Rail Yards.

“We’re not adding more buildings,” Havilah says. “It’s all within the existing envelope of Carriageworks.”

The concept plan by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer includes an upgrade to Bays 22-24 to create an acoustically sealed space of 6000 square metres with blackout capacity and climate control.

“Once developed this space will be a critically important piece of cultural infrastructure in NSW …” a draft of the report says.

The space will be utilised by artists 30 per cent of the time, with “70 per cent commercial utilisation”, according to the report.

The Six-Year Strategy also envisages the staging of multiple music festivals, presenting high-profile musicians and showcasing Asian pop music.

Other buildings will be renovated to increase the size of the Farmers Market on weekends, add a weekday market and accommodate food events throughout the year.

Bay 19 will be converted into a 200-seat cinema, while other buildings will house subsidised artists’ studios and rehearsal spaces and a workspace for start-up companies and independent creatives.

The strategy also aspires to provide space for film and fashion shoots as well as large-scale events in its Paint Shed building.

Havilah says the expansion plan will “complete the precinct” and build on the strong growth in audiences, which increased from 110,000 in 2012 to 790,000 in 2015.