Need for anchor tenants vital

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Poetntial . . . The Soldiers' Block could provide valuable community space. File photo

By ROBYN BRISTOW

Anchor tenants will be critical to the future of the Soldiers’ Block in Hanmer Springs, a feasibility report says.

Identifying tenants to anchor the project, aimed at breathing new life into the heritage building, is the first step recommended in the study, as it would ensure operational and maintenance costs could be met. This would allow the remaining spaces to be hired by community groups and other users.

The study, carried out by WSP Opus on behalf of the Hurunui District Council, says any future uses of the former Queen Mary hospital building should connect with its original purpose of providing a place of health and wellness in the alpine village.

Gemma Greenshields, from Opus, told the council at a meeting at Waipara there were 256 responses received during consultation, with strong support from the community for a community hub concept, particularly as venues in the town were difficult to find for community uses.

Other uses that could generate income included an interactive museum, a boutique movie theatre, residential accommodation, and a cooking school.

Ms Greenshields said the large open spaces in the building lent themselves to being a good fit for a museum.

The study says a museum could be interactive, and could draw interest from those interested in World War 1 history and heritage buildings.

An approach had been made to Sir Peter Jackson about the Great War exhibition at Te Papa, to see if the Soldier’s Block could be considered an appropriate home for the display when it moved on from Te Papa, Ms Greenshields said.

To date nothing had been heard, although it seemed likely the display may be destined elsewhere.

Providing accommodation for seasonal workers could help relieve problems with accommodating workers in the town, while smaller spaces could be used for consulting rooms or small business premises.

It could provide a drop-in centre for the elderly, a Plunket venue, toy library, a Senior Net base or a place for mums with babies to meet.

The hall could host large functions with toilet facilities and a sprung wooden dance floor, with its north facing aspect making it an attractive venue.

The council was granted $30,000 from the community facilities fund from Lotteries for the feasibility study on the refurbishment of the block at the Queen Mary Historic Reserve, with its Soldier’s Block steering committee helping with the project.

The council received the report which recommended further detailed economic analysis, determination of the level of earthquake strengthening and further engagement with the community when a preferred option is known or an anchor tenant identified.