The RICH (Re-Imagining City Hall) Hobart Project

About the project 

The future of ‘city halls’ in many developed democracies and post-colonial cities is being addressed across the world as the twenty-first century takes shape, and challenges to community life are being matched with innovative community responses. 

Hobart City Hall is so much more than just a physical site for Hobartians. In order to realise its full community benefit, the City has engaged Partners Hill, Lovell Chen and Creative Business Solutions to facilitate the RICH (Re-Imagining City Hall) Hobart project. 

The RICH project is geared to provide creative and achievable approaches to build on City Hall’s strengths, increase its connections within the local, cultural and University precinct and maximise the frequency and diversity of its use and hire. The project strongly aligns with and draws upon the City of Hobart’s vision Hobart: A community vision for our island capital

RICH will inform an ongoing management model, as well as mid- and long-term infrastructure investment decisions within and around the facility.

As part of this, the project will address issues such as governance, accessibility, operational models, community participation, and the building’s greater community and civic role. 

Consultant team

Past planning projects undertaken by Partners Hill and Lovell Chen include the State Library of Victoria Strategic Plan, and the Gold Coast City Council Cultural Precinct Masterplan.  Significant building projects include ongoing work at the Royal Exhibition Building (incorporating conservation management plans for the building and its gardens), the conservation and refurbishment of Melbourne’s Palais Theatre, the redevelopment of the State Library of Queensland 

Creative Business Solutions has undertaken an arts and culture strategic and facilities audit for the Macedon Ranges Council and a review of the Benalla Performing Arts and Convention Centre amongst other projects. Michael Mitchener is a former CEO of the ACT Festivals and Events Corporation and a former CEO of Film Victoria.

Engagement process

The first stage of the engagement process when Hobartians shared their insights on the City Hall and their experience and understandings of it was completed in November 2018. 

The feedback received confirms that there is great affection for the Hobart City Hall.

The consultant team have led the discussion about the role of places such as a ‘City Hall’ in contemporary cities. Whereas in many cities these facilities have slipped into disuse because other more specialised facilities have emerged over time, the Hobart City Hall story, is one of a venue that ‘persists’, fulfilling many spatial and functional demands that are not met by other spaces. 

As the feedback has affirmed, there is no shortage of demand for public places. In this way, the likely mandate for the Hall is very continuous with its past role; in that it remains as so many important things, to so many people. 

After reviewing all the feedback, the consultant team has developed three future possible options for the City Hall, with a suggested staged approach to these.

To learn more about these future possibilities, the community is invited to two listening post events at the City Hall, 57-63 Macquarie Street on: 

  • 10 December: 12 pm – 1.30 pm 
  • 11 December: 4.30 pm – 6 pm

The options will be released at a later date before the listening post events and can be viewed on the Your Say Hobart engagement portal.  

Hobart City Hall history

City Hall was completed in 1915 and for just over a century has served the Hobart community well. The facility originally incorporated three separate parts; residential and administrative spaces on Macquarie Street, a large double height top lit market space on Collins Street and a hall street in the middle. The hall portion of the scheme has provided a large, flexible, accessible and centrally located facility that can be used for a multitude of purposes.

While the market end of the building has been significantly altered, the hall component has changed little in its design and layout over time. While ongoing maintenance has been consistent, hall usage has declined as the demands of contemporary events and the expectations of the community have changed.

Engagement with hall hirers and key stakeholders in 2015 assisted in the identification of key issues, including the physical condition of City Hall. As a result the City of Hobart implemented works to address immediate functional, safety and amenity concerns.

Refurbishment works 2017

The first body of works in 2017 included a flexible, engineered in-roof rigging system and a split fire detection system which allows use of theatrical smoke within the main auditorium – an asset for both festival and major event users.

Work included repainting of the hall interior in line with its original colour scheme. The project won an award at the 2018 Master Painters Awards for Excellence in the Heritage Restoration category. 

In addition, the venue’s ground floor toilets were significantly upgraded, so that the hall could adequately service a crowd of 1240 people.

Refurbishment works 2018

The original 1915 timber floor installed in the hall area of the building was replaced after the Second World War. This replacement floor has served for nearly 70 years during which time it has been damaged, flooded (in the 1960s) and sanded back many times. The 2018 flood inflicted further damage and as a result the main hall floor reached the end of its functional life, no longer suitable for a multi-function venue.  

Consequently, the next stage of renewal works focuses on the reinstatement of a suitable floor for the main hall, and works which are required by safety considerations, such as in-ceiling void fall protection and new access ladders to this space.

The new flooring is made of 32mm Tasmanian Oak hardwood boards, which in conjunction with other sub-floor structural improvements, will create a highly functional and long-lived floor. This improvement will complement the freshly painted auditorium, and will be much more accommodating of contemporary event and performance needs.

The City of Hobart is seeking to make this investment as future-proof as possible and has taken advice from key event stakeholders and technical providers.

The existing City Hall floor boards have been carefully removed by the Resource Work Cooperative Deconstruction team and are for sale at the McRobies Gully Tip Shop. We are also working with the Resource Work Cooperative to generate a possible creative project involving the re-use of some of the boards.