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New owners . . . Among the row of buildings Timaru District Holdings now owns is the former Majestic Theatre (behind tree) which opened in 1911 as Hayward's Lyceum. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

Demolition of old buildings in south Stafford St purchased by Timaru District Holdings (TDHL) is not an option being considered at this stage.

“There are no plans to demolish and if so a resource consent would be required but there is no plan to do so [demolish],” TDHL group manager-secretary Tina Rogers said.

The Timaru District Council-controlled TDHL purchased the properties at 101 to 123 Stafford St for $1.7million, to allow the sites to be combined and on-sold to a developer as a single 3700sqm site.

Current tenancies would continue in the buildings, while development opportunities were explored.

Tenancies varied for each individual, Ms Rogers said.

Discussions had been held with developers over the last couple of years regarding the buildings while options were being explored as a way to revitalise the area, she said.

The buildings include a former bank building dating from the 19th century, now a shop, and the old Majestic Theatre, originally known as Haywards Lyceum which was built in 1911, and in 1929 introduced the major film innovation of the time, the talkies, to Timaru.

Almost directly on the other side of the road the Timaru District Council plans to upgrade the Theatre Royal, spending $12million and developing an $11million heritage hub which will incorporate a new museum.

Earlier this year the council bought the former Excelsior Tavern and announced it planned to demolish two empty buildings between the former hotel and Theatre Royal in order to extend the foyer of the theatre.

Council communications manager Stephen Doran said the TDHL purchase and council plans for the other side of the street were separate.

“Although they will both in different ways help with the upgrade of south Stafford St.”

Dates when work would begin on the theatre project had not been determined.

“The theatre is at the planning stage and the heritage hub is at a pre-planning stage.

“Other than the timings outlined in the Long Term Plan (2021-22) onwards for the heritage centre and 2018-19 to 2020-21 for the Theatre Royal, we don’t have exact dates.”

Chairman of the CBD Group Nigel Gilkison said the group would like to see an overarching plan for the heritage hub, Theatre Royal and the buildings bought for TDHL.

“It’s imperative we discuss what we want to see there, rather than the council having ad hoc development.”

As an urban designer he considered street frontage to be critical and was concerned that a “big box” development on the site of the buildings could result in something that was not appropriate for the area.