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Verschoor backs concert hall vision for old Le Cornu site

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Lord Mayoral candidate Sandy Verschoor has unveiled her vision for the council-owned former Le Cornu site, including a long called-for concert hall for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, a music school, hotel and retail precinct.

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Speaking at a council candidates’ forum in North Adelaide last night, Verschoor said a concert hall at 88 O’Connell Street would increase the number of people visiting North Adelaide “exponentially” and would boost Adelaide’s standing as a UNESCO city of music.

Verschoor’s plan for the site includes a music school for students in Years 10, 11 and 12, a hotel linked to the theatre for concert attendees and performers, and a “music-orientated” retail precinct selling instruments and sheet music.

She said her idea was inspired by the Casa da Música music house in Porto, Portugal – a modern polygon-shaped building built in 2006 to house the Porto National Orchestra, the Baroque Orchestra and the Remix Ensemble.

“It is the biggest drawcard in Porto, with all the different types of music – jazz, classical, it’s just an amazing building,” Verschoor told InDaily this morning.

“What an amazing place we could make North Adelaide if we did something similar – build a concert venue and put the State Opera there, put the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra there, put the (Australian) String Quartet there.”

Verschoor told last night’s forum ASO musicians could offer tutoring from the site, which she said would bring an influx of retail expenditure to North Adelaide.

“There are 80 musicians that are part of the symphony orchestra – each of them teach, so you could bring in a music school for Years 10, 11, 12,” she said.

“What do you do when your child goes to music lessons, especially if that music lesson takes half an hour to 45 minutes? You go across the road, you have a coffee, you do your shopping, you get whatever you need for dinner and then you go home.

“Next to the music school you have retail but the retail is more music-orientated, whether it’s instruments (or) sheet music.”

Verschoor also spruiked a vision for an “art hotel” at the site, which she said could be linked to the concert hall to provide accommodation for performers and concert attendees.

“If somebody comes in from interstate and they stay at the hotel they get priority entry into the music hall,” she said.

“I think that would be a perfect synergy and it would also bring immediately at least two (to) three hundred workers.”

South Australia’s music leaders have long-campaigned for a new concert venue in the CBD, arguing current venues including the Festival Centre, Her Majesty’s Theatre and Adelaide Town Hall lack quality acoustics, or are too small and have limited access.

ASO managing director Vince Ciccarello previously told InDaily the orchestra’s most regular performance venue, Adelaide Town Hall, placed the orchestra at a disadvantage.

“The capacity compels the ASO to perform programs twice – thereby incurring double the conductor, artist, venue and front-of-house and back-of-house costs,” he said.

“As far as user experience is concerned, the Adelaide Town Hall offers a terrific acoustic but lacks the amenity that 21st century audiences demand and deserve: good sight lines, comfortable fixed seating, state-of-the-art electrics – including lighting, air conditioning and permanent, flexible audio-visual technology – foyers, bars, toilets, parking.”

Ciccarello told InDaily today the need for a new concert hall was “as pressing as ever”.

He said he was “very open” to the idea of building a concert hall at 88 O’Connell Street, which had been previously floated by North Adelaide architecture firm Matthews Architects.

“There would be many questions about the feasibility and the footprint of the design, particularly the parking and the dimensions of the shape of it and also what we could co-locate with the site,” Ciccarello said.

“The idea of retail shops and teaching opportunities, creating a music focus point would be great.”

Matthews Architects managing director Gerald Matthews has been quoted in The Advertiser spruiking his firm’s concept – which features panoramic views of the city from within the music hall, a stage comprising circular platforms and a ‘town square’ overlooking the street.

The sticking point of the idea would be funding for the concert hall.

While Premier Steven Marshall is a known supporter of the ASO, and attends concerts, his Government’s priority for arts infrastructure is a national indigenous arts and culture gallery to be built at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site.

The council bought the Le Cornu site in December last year with a $10 million injection from the State Government. The council has agreed to guiding principles for the site’s development.

Last night’s forum also heard Lord Mayoral candidates Mark Hamilton and Kate Treloar’s vision for 88 O’Connell Street – with fellow candidate Steven Kelly not in attendance.

Hamilton argued the site was best suited to a two-storey underground car park, town square and residential building.

“As far as O’Connell Street is concerned, there should be two levels of underground car parking built,” he said.

“That would involve council taking ownership of that (and) it would occur over the next couple of years and the top levels would be available for any other form of development or use.

“If there is going to be development on the site, there should be residential development that appeals to permanent owner-occupiers,” Hamilton said.

Treloar said a “genuine community space” was needed on the site.

“I’m quite a big believer in open space so I don’t think you need to rush with developing it. Do it slowly,” she said.

“I’m a huge fan of human-scale liveability – ultimately it would be a space that’s not just jamming as much as you can in for profit, but to make it a genuine community space with residential properties that aren’t too huge and a mix of small businesses.”

Verschoor said this morning she was also open to residential buildings and open green space on the site.

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