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Feasibility study . . . Options for the Soldiers' Block are to be investigated by consultants. PHOTO: ROBYN BRISTOW

By ROBYN BRISTOW

Plans to bring the Soldiers’ Block to life at the former Queen Mary Hospital site in Hanmer Springs has taken a tentative step forward.

A grant has been made available by the Historic Places Trust to explore potential uses for the historic block.

Owners, the Hurunui District Council, has commissioned WSP Opus to undertake a feasibility study, exploring community, cultural, economic and recreational activities that could see the building come to life and cover its own operational and maintenance costs.

Council regulatory services manager Judith Batchelor says the funding boost will help set up a model of what the Soldiers’ Block could be like.

“It’s about trying to find the best way to breathe life into the building,” she says.

The Soldiers’ Block has a rich history dating back to 1916 and is a nationally significant heritage site. It is in the heart of the village, beside the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa.

It has been vacant for many years and requires earthquake strengthening.

Cr Jason Fletcher is urging anyone interested in a space in the building, or who wants to see it brought back to life, to attend a drop-in session at the Hanmer Springs Library, on the corner of Amuri Avenue and Cheltenham Street, on Wednesday, August 8.

The project team will be on hand to discuss ideas with people between 6pm and 8pm. An online survey on SurveyMonkey.com, which closes on August 15, is also asking people for their ideas and views.

Cr Fletcher says the survey and public session are aimed at helping see how use of the Soldiers’ Block might work and how to make it “feasible to run the building at zero cost to the community”.

However, he is also interested in seeing if local people are prepared to pay through their rates to help with operating and maintaining it. “Personally I am quite happy to do that through a targeted rate or whatever. But I am really keen to see if anyone else is also,” he says.

Depending on the outcome of the study, a more detailed business case for its potential use may follow.