The proposal to turn Manly Town Hall into a multi-purpose arts space has been shelved.

Proposals for imaginative re-use of Manly Town Hall, which was built in 1937, were part of Manly ward Councillor Candy Bingham’s election campaign at the 2021 Local Government Election.

A report that came back to the last meeting of Northern Beaches Council (Tuesday, 30 April) revealed the options considered by a Manly Town Hall Project Working Group (PWG) had not proven feasible.

Close to 300 ideas were put forward for consideration by the PWG, which was set up by Northern Beaches Council. Councillor Bingham pitched consideration of the adaptive re-use of Manly Town Hall as an entertainment and arts hub.

“The purposing of the heritage Manly Town Hall building into an exciting multi-use performing arts space just ticks all the boxes.

“As a major entertainment hub and community facility, this will also change our night-time culture in Manly. It’s a fabulous way to get the Manly area, businesses and culture all firing again,” Cr Bingham said at the time.

Manly Town Hall historic photo

The report from the PWG came back to Council in a confidential session on 30 April.

Although the report has not yet been publicly released, it found the operating costs would likely exceed revenues, ‘with little chance for commercial return on investment’.

Additionally, the report found there was no evidence of demand to support the need for a venue of the type contemplated by the proposal, which included a flexible 350-seat space, 100-seat theatre and 80-seat cinema.

Councillor Bingham, who was responsible for leading the community-led proposal, said the report had been comprehensive in considering the options for use of Manly Town Hall.

“I was very impressed with how thorough the report was. It covered everything from the suitability of the building, heritage considerations, audience catchment, potential programming, and of course the risks and opportunities with the conversion of the building.

“The report also looked at cost estimates and design layouts. The proposal simply was not viable, and the Council was looking at a substantial subsidy to operate such a facility,” said Cr Bingham.

An iconic 87-year-old heritage listed building, Manly Town Hall is located at the gateway to The Corso at 1 Belgrave Street, opposite Manly Wharf. It will continue to operate as a Customer Service Centre and administration facility, with 100 Northern Beaches Council staff accommodated in the building.

Images: Good for Manly, Northern Beaches Council

Manly Town Hall proposal

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