What is being done to the Bowral Memorial Hall?

    Originally opened in 1885 as the two-story School of Arts, in the 1960s the Bowral Memorial Hall was extended into a performing arts hall as we know it today.  The building is now being  refurbished to meet the current needs of our community with a focus on providing a concert hall with excellent acoustics.

    The works planned include:

    • acoustic improvements - raising the ceiling, improving ceiling shape and ceiling material, creation of reflective surfaces around the performance area, better auditorium wall surfaces
    • better conditions for performers - more modern and comfortable backstage areas and and undercover link between back of house and front of house (no need to go via stage)
    • greater audience comfort - more foyer space (the interior of the School of Arts section will be restored as the main entry to the Hall), a cloakroom, bar, upgraded toilets, improved seating (with an option to use tiered seating when appropriate), heating and cooling and overall a more welcoming Hall that creates a sense of occasion
    • presenters services - ticket office, space to promote coming events, modern kitchen facilities, facilities that meet the standards for touring ensembles
    • storage - storage areas will increase
    • access for performers, audience and staff - the Hall, stage and dressing rooms will be accessible by lifts to every level, and there will also be a lift to the office space and control room
    • creation of an exhibition space - the new enlarged foyer areas will provide wall space for display of artwork
    • flexible spaces - the stage and seating configurations can be changed to suit different types of performances and uses e.g. flat floor or some tiered seating (retractable), small stage, no stage or use of fore stage lift at three different levels (stage, main floor, orchestra pit/basement).  An operable wall on the stage not only improves acoustics but can create an overflow Green Room.
    • heritage - once again the Heritage entrance can be enjoyed and heritage values will be preserved and protected
    • structural improvements - structural issues with the floor and ceiling/roof will be addressed and there will be all new plumbing, electrical and hydraulics
    • office space - will be created on the first floor for Hall management and related purposes
    • equipment - a complete fit out with the latest sound and lighting technology is planned as well as projection equipment.  There will be an AV and lighting control area.
    • improved environmental sustainability - insulation, energy efficient lighting, water efficient hydraulics
    The result will be a beautiful building - it will be a new life for an ageing and valuable community asset which will once again be able to enhance the cultural life of Bowral and the Southern Highlands and bring economic activity to the surrounding businesses.

    How long has the Bowral Memorial Hall project been in development?

    The project has been in development since 2008.  The following provides a brief history of the project:-

    ·  2008/2009 - Arts and Culture Committee (ACB)starts investigating options to achieve a public performance space that has modern facilities catering for touring productions and musical performances with a capacity of at least 300 and with modern facilities including sound system, stage lighting, flexible stage of good size, comfortable and workable backstage areas, adequate storage and audience facilities that provide both comfort, convenience and good listening/viewing experience (seating, heating/cooling, sightlines, acoustics, bar/café, toilets, ticket office). 

    ·  2009 – Arts and Culture Committee receives a concept plan for the redevelopment of the Bowral Memorial Hall commissioned by a community member.  A theatre consultant is commissioned to carry out a feasibility study to investigate whether it was worth redeveloping the hall.  The conclusion was that a good facility could be created which made use of the existing building structure. Council proceeded to develop a scope of works for the redevelopment of the Hall.

    ·  2010 – Council resolved to hold the public exhibition on the proposal with submissions invited from Council Committees and community stakeholders.  Twenty two submissions were received which ranged from those generally supporting the concept to those supporting the concept but raising a range of technical, access and management issues. 

    ·  2011- Council resolves to establish a Bowral Memorial Hall Working Group (made up of community members with expertise in music, theatre and facilities management, Council staff and Councillors) tasked with:

    o  Developing an architects brief (taking into account public submissions), with advice from theatre consultant, structural engineer and universal access consultant. 

    o  Obtaining accurate costings through the engagement of a quantity surveyor

    o  Preparing and submitting a DA for the project

    o  Preparing a funding plan for the project

    o  Developing a business plan and management model for operating the facility

    ·  2011 – Council commissioned Cox Architecture to development a proposal for the Hall – a multipurpose Hall for both music and theatre.  The Working Group provided valuable input into the development proposal and feedback from community consultation and user groups was incorporated into the design where feasible.  A complete demolition of the main part of the Hall was proposed with an indicative budget of $6 million.   The proposal included some theatre equipment and flexible acoustics to accommodate both theatre and music.  It could be said that both uses were compromised as the design did not result in an excellent venue for either types of performance. The DA and proposal were not proceeded with at that stage as plans for a more major performing arts venue were discussed. 

    ·  2013 – the underutilised Bowral Memorial Hall began to be used as the rehearsal and performance space for the Southern Highlands Symphony Orchestra and the Southern Highlands Concert Band, who found the acoustics in the Hall favourable.  Some minor works were carried out in the Hall to make it more comfortable and the idea of developing the Hall as a concert venue was raised.

    ·  2013 – the project was included in Council’s Community Strategic Plan – 2031+ following the community consultation undertaken in the development of the CSP.

    ·  2015 – Council undertook community consultation for the development of the Arts and Culture Strategic Plan – the redevelopment of the Bowral Memorial Hall was identified as a key strategy

    ·  2015 – Council commissioned an acoustic report to assess the current state of the Hall for various uses and to advise on improvements that could be made to accommodate various uses.   Based on the information in the report the Arts and Culture Committee supported recommendations that the Hall be refurbished to enhance unamplified music, that it be recognised as an essential component of Council’s cultural infrastructure and integrated into Council’s Fit for the Future plans.  A condition report for the Hall was prepared by the Assets section of Council and a number of major structural and maintenance issues were identified.

    ·  2015 – a summary of recommendations for refurbishing the Hall was presented to Councillors and the Finance Committee (based on recommendations from the Acoustics Report, Assets, the Southern Highlands Symphony Orchestra, an Engineers Report, the Arts and Culture Committee, the Facilities Committee and Cox Architects).

    ·  2015 – Council confirmed that the primary purpose of the Bowral Memorial Hall would be as a concert hall for unamplified music/centre of excellence for music and part of the cultural infrastructure of the Shire and that a refurbishment project for this purpose should commence (noting that this would not prevent the Hall from being booked and used for other purposes)

    ·  2015/16 – an architects brief for the project was finalised and tenders were called.  An acoustics specialist with concert hall experience was to be included in the architects project team.  NBRS won the tender and commenced the development of the concept design.

    ·  2016 – the new concept design was completed.  The design was reviewed by the two key stakeholders – the SH Symphony Orchestra and the SH Concert Band.  Adjustments to the design were made in response to their feedback.  Preparation was made for a DA submission. 

    ·  2016/17 – consultation was undertaken to review Council’s Community Strategic Plan and the draft CSP, Operational Plan and Resourcing Strategy was placed on public exhibition.  One of the construction projects included in the Plans was the redevelopment of the Bowral Memorial Hall as a concert hall. 

    ·  2017 – Further key stakeholder consultation was undertaken and further modifications were made to the design to accommodate this feedback. Revised DA documentation including a quantity surveyor report was provided.

    ·  2017 – Council’s Resourcing Strategy was approved including funding for the building works (costed at $3.5 million) included in the financial year 2019/20.  Funding was not allocated for the equipment fit out ($850,000) or a concert grand piano.

    ·  2017 – the DA 17/1174 for the project was submitted and further community consultation conducted as part of this process

    ·  2018 and 2019 - Council approved the Development Application on 28 March 2018 and modifications on 6 November 2019.

    Where can I view the proposed design?

    You can also see them right here in the Document Library.

    How much will it cost and how will it be paid for?

    Council has secured $2.8 million in Australian Government funding to renovate Bowral Memorial Hall and these funds will be added to the existing $3.7 million Council had already allocated towards the renovations as part of the 2020/21 Operational Plan and Budget.

    How will the historical features of the hall be managed?

    The former entrance to Bowral Memorial Hall will be restored at the School of Arts section of the building and the façade to the School of Arts maintained. Internally, the ground floor of the School of Arts will be redeveloped into the foyer, cloak room, kitchen and refreshments bar and the first floor will become office space. 

    When will the hall improvements be completed?

    Thanks to the injection of funds provided by the Australian Government, works will commence in the first quarter of 2021 and be completed in 2022.

    How will access to the Hall be improved?

    The redevelopment plan includes a number of features to improve access for both audience members, performers and technical staff. There is one lift which will operate over three levels - from the stage to the floor and to the dressing rooms and another lift servicing two floors from the foyer to the control room. An accessible bathroom will be added to the backstage facilities. The hall itself will include an improved sound system including a hearing loop and there will be plenty of seating at floor level.  

    Will groups who use the Bowral Memorial Hall be affected by the work?

    The Hall is expected to be unavailable for a period of 12 months during which time existing groups will need to find alternative venues.  Council will assist as much as possible in identifying alternatives.  Current users of the Hall will be advised well in advance so they can plan programs ahead. Regular hall hirers have been informed about the planned improvements.

    Will the redeveloped Hall only be for music?

    The redevelopment will result in a Hall which has excellent acoustics for music performances, particularly unamplified music.  It will be able to host local and touring orchestral concerts, chamber music groups, piano recitals, jazz concerts, contemporary music and bands.  

    It is expected that the use of the Hall for these purposes will increase significantly following the refurbishment.

    However, the Hall will still be available for other uses including theatre, meetings, seminars, conferences, dance classes, exhibitions and community events.   

    How will the Bowral Memorial Hall be managed after the redevelopment is completed?

    An operational plan is being developed to ensure the redeveloped hall is well managed and promoted as part of our Shire's cultural and community infrastructure. 

    Has a DA been submitted?

    The Development Application (DA) was submitted on 25 August 2017. Council approved it on 28 March 2018 and on 6 November 2019 approved some modificationsYou can view the details on DA Tracker – search for 17/1174.