Cinema's $3.5m redevelopment into church hits heritage hurdle

THE former Australia Cinema’s awning and the front facade beneath it are links to its history and major points of contention in a $3.5 million development to transform the building into a glass-fronted church, according to Orange City Council staff.

But staff have recommended councillors approve the Orange Evangelical Church’s redevelopment, which will demolish the majority of the building’s frontage.

After ongoing negotiations between the church, architect Greg Schwenke and the council, the development was referred to the council’s heritage consultant twice.

In a report to council, senior planner Michael Glenn said staff and the heritage consultant had asked for the development to be redesigned to fit in with the streetscape, but, despite some attempts, substantial elements remained unsympathetic.

Mr Schwenke said after the negotiations he was confident all parties had reached an agreement.

“Hopefully they [councillors] support our view as well as the [council] planners,” he said.

“The building has cultural and social heritage rather than architectural heritage and that’s evident in the many different refurbishments it’s had.”

Mr Schwenke said the church intended to include a heritage wall in the “public building” complete with framed popcorn signs and ticket stubs to reflect on the building’s history as a cinema.

The main bulk of the building will remain the same, including rendered brickwork and exposed internal brickwork, but the reconstructed awning will be higher than the original.

“The reason we didn’t want to retain the existing awning is because the structure of awnings of that era is dangerous,” Mr Schwenke said.

As a condition of the development, council staff have restricted the maximum capacity to 720 people to meet parking demand and avoid a potential $856,522.94 parking contribution bill if it was calculated on the floor area.

Mr Schwenke said there would be no additional need for parking and despite the building proposing enough seating for about 450 people, the church’s congregation at any one time only numbered about 150.

If the development is approved tonight, Mr Schwenke said construction could begin in early 2015.

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