NEWCASTLE’S historic Victoria Theatre is a step closer to being revived as a grand entertainment hub as clean up work begins on the heritage-listed site.
Preparatory work to remove some “hazardous substances” from the interior of the building will begin on Tuesday ahead of new owner, the Sydney-based Century Venues group, restoring “The Vic” to its former glory.
But the clean up could take months, with consultant project manager Daniel Ballantyne estimating there is between 40-to-60 tonnes of rubbish materials to be removed from the building first, as well as asbestos and lead-based paint.
“The Victoria hasn’t been a working theatre for 50 years,” Mr Ballantyne said.
“Since it ceased being a theatre and was turned into a retail space there has been an enormous amount of material relating to the retail years that has been dumped or left behind. Everything from old fit-outs and furniture to television sets have been left behind.
“The work that is going ahead this week is about setting up the conditions to manage the hazardous substances and plan the safest way to remove the large amount of other material.”
Built in 1890 in Perkins Street, opposite the old David Jones building in Newcastle, the theatre has sat empty and boarded up since 1999.
Some of the country’s biggest theatrical legends including June Bronhill, Joan Hammond and Lily Langtry graced its stage before the curtain was drawn on a final performance at the theatre in 1966.
Mr Ballantyne said while the restoration of the theatre may have been a bigger job than anticipated, he is confident it offers an “extraordinary opportunity” for Newcastle.
“The city centre of Newcastle is rapidly changing and improving and growing,” he said.
“I think this will find quite a specific niche in the arts and entertainment community in Newcastle, and we really believe it will complement and expand on existing opportunities in Newcastle.”
Century Venues bought the heritage-listed site in November 2015.
The group’s executive director, Greg Khoury, said they wanted to resurrect the site as a working heritage theatre.
“It will take some time to return the theatre to its former glory,” Mr Khoury said.
“These first steps over the next few weeks involve cleaning up and carefully managing some hazardous substances.
“We have engaged experts who will use the best technology and processes for this important initial work.”
Century Venues operates the Enmore Theatre and The Metro in Sydney, The Factory at Marrickville, The Comedy Store at Moore Park and The Vanguard at Newtown.