Sammy’s back to original use popular idea

Photo by Jane Dawber.
Photo by Jane Dawber.
Returning  the  Sammy’s building to its former use as a  theatre or nightclub is a  popular  idea among Dunedin people.

The Dunedin City Council has called for residents’ "dreams and visions" for the building that has hosted everyone from Sir Laurence Olivier, Faith No More and The Pogues to The Chills, The Verlaines and The Clean.

An Otago Daily Times request for readers’ views has resulted in calls for a return to a music or theatre venue, as well as suggestions of a homeless shelter or drop-in centre.

The council called for public feedback on Friday.

The council bought the 121-year-old building, considered an important part of Dunedin’s social and cultural history, for $128,000 early this year, from former owner Sam Chin.

Dunedin city councillor Aaron Hawkins said the council wanted to give people a say on the building’s future.

"This building has heritage and cultural significance for the city.

"It’s changed use many times over the years, and it’s appropriate that we should see what people think should happen next."

The building was originally called the Agricultural Hall and was operated by the A&P Society. In 1902 it was redeveloped and reopened as His Majesty’s Theatre. It was condemned in the 1970s and part of the building was demolished, but after renovations it reopened in 1983 as Sammy’s restaurant and nightclub.

Feedback to the ODT yesterday included ideas to use it as everything from an indoor skate park to a karting venue.

But many of the comments called for it to be returned to its original use as a music venue or theatre.

Cr Hawkins said the council did not have a fixed view on what the building should become.

"I don’t think that would be helpful in terms of the conversation we want to have."

The consultation was framed around people’s memories of the building, and their ambitions for the future.

But Cr Hawkins said "best practice" in preserving the heritage value of the building would be for it to remain as some kind of performance space.

"But that could take many forms."

A broad spectrum of uses could take place within the art, theatre and performance area, Cr Hawkins said.

Since it was announced the council had bought the building, there had been "no shortage" of people getting in touch with ideas for those sort of uses.

On the facade, which some respondents mentioned, Cr Hawkins said: "It would be fair comment to say nobody is particularly attached to the facade in its current incarnation."

"I can’t see it enduring in its current form."

Cr Hawkins said a report would be put together by staff for the council’s long-term plan meeting in December.

It would probably be a "high level" look at the possibilities.

After that there would be a discussion about how any project would be paid for.

"That would be the next stage."

There was no budget for the building this financial year, so nothing would happen until July 2018, at the earliest.

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