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Thebarton Theatre under threat - even if it's not demolished

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Thebarton Theatre operators have warned of the damage the iconic live music venue would suffer if it lost its South Rd frontage and load-in access to a looming multi-billion dollar South Rd upgrade, warning it would “impact every aspect of the building”.

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Even if the heritage-listed theatre escapes demolition under the stage two of the South Rd upgrade – which will see hundreds of properties between Tonsley and the Torrens compulsorily acquired and bulldozed – its operators say the ability to continue as a 2000-seat music venue will be severely compromised if the site’s land and vital access was lost and a widened South Rd approached its walls.

“Yes, the theatre is set back off South Rd, but the land next to the building is incredibly important to the venue,” Weslo Holdings wrote on the theatre website.

“It offers wheelchair parking and access to the venue and safer patron access. The trucks load in off South Road and it offers a direct route for emergency vehicles. Not to mention the access restriction for patrons if a road the size of South Road was right next to where they were going to spend an enjoyable evening.

“Building up to the side of the theatre will drastically effect the acoustics and bring road noise into the venue. Not such an issue for loud Rock and Roll, but it would effect the quieter productions and more intimate moments of concerts, and restrict the types of show that will book the venue.

“It would impact every aspect of the building.

“Patrons won’t want to come and spend additional time at the venue or the surrounding businesses that benefit from the venue. If patrons are not comfortable, the bar trade will reduce and therefore staff numbers will too.

“The artists won’t be happy if the patrons aren’t.”

While Thebarton Theatre itself sits on Henley Beach Rd and is set back from South Rd, its adjoining carpark fronts the junction’s north-west corner.

Trucks now enter from South Rd in order to move equipment in and out of the venue via its side access doors facing South Rd, amid a cluster of historic buildings including the old council chambers, a church and a school.

Premier Steven Marshall and various ministers have repeatedly stated they while they can’t guarantee the the venue’s future until stage two’s business plan is developed and approved, they are aware of its heritage and cultural value, and point out that two of three options for the South Rd-Henley Beach Rd section upgrade involve tunnels.

Weslo Holdings, which has for decades leased the theatre from owner West Torrens Council, said it backs a tunnel option.

An online petition launched in the wake of the original Sunday Mail report about the future of the theatre and other threatened sites today holds 57,000 signatures demanding it not be demolished.

Premier Steven Marshall last week again refused to guarantee the theatre’s survival, despite saying last year it “must never be bulldozed” as he attended a celebration to mark its 90th birthday and induction into the SA Music Hall of Fame.

Weslo Holdings also said it was concerned about the impact on local businesses, many of which reported increased trade during theatre events.

It asked “that any option still enable us, and them, to continue to trade efficiently through the development process, and that any choice results in minimal impact to the existing landscape, in particular, all the other superb Heritage buildings in the vicinity”.

“We look forward to discussing the needs of the venue with the necessary departments before any final decisions are made.”

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephan Knoll was in Estimates hearings this morning and couldn’t comment to InDaily, but a spokesman pointed to a statement made recently by acting minister David Speirs.

The former Labor government ruled out tunnels and the Marshall Government has put them back on the agenda,” the statement said.

“The Marshall and Morrison Government’s have $5.4 billion on the table for what will be the biggest infrastructure project in our state’s history.

“This is a record level of funding for any one infrastructure project in South Australia, with $252 million inside the forward estimates for planning and early works.

“The decision on how to complete the North-South Corridor will impact future generations of South Australians, we have to use the best advice to get this right.”

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