St John’s church to be developed by SIT

SIT programme manager for creative industries Kathryn McCully in front of St John’s church in...
SIT programme manager for creative industries Kathryn McCully in front of St John’s church in Invercargill yesterday. Photo: Sharon Reece
A central Invercargill church is set to receive a $14 million-$15 million injection of funds from its new owner — the Southern Institute of Technology.

St John’s Anglican Church, hall and grounds between Tay and Esk Sts will become part of a larger "Creative Centre", and will include co-working areas for graduates and postgraduate students.  The decision, announced yesterday, was agreed by the SIT council at a meeting on Monday night. Council chairman Peter Heenan confirmed it would fund the centre from its reserves.

The Creative Centre will include the church, a three-storey, 2250sq m new building on the footprint of the church hall, an atrium joining the two and a cafe extension to the north of the church facing Esk St. The Rt Rev Steven Benford, the Anglican Bishop of Dunedin, said it had been a difficult process, but one that had a "positive outcome" for the congregation.

Concept plans for the new development.
Concept plans for the new development.
"They have been increasingly struggling to maintain this complex and the sale will enable the building — an important taonga in Invercargill — to be preserved and used in new ways to the benefit of the wider community."

He also said it would allow the parish to focus on mission work in the district and further afield. He  acknowledged there was a "sadness" about leaving a building that had been so important to parishioners over the years.

SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds  was "delighted" the college is in a position to "purchase, strengthen, enhance and repurpose one of Invercargill’s icon historic CBD buildings".  The vision was based on the Australian Centre for Moving Imagery (ACMI) in Melbourne.

Kathryn McCully, programme manager for creative industries at SIT, said while the exhibitions and associated public programmes would be focused on moving imagery, technology and interactivity, the door had also been left open for other arts and creative practices to be part of the centre.

Concept plans for the new development.
Concept plans for the new development.
"The centre will provide a platform for the community to experience and participate in creative and educational programmes in state of the art facilities, providing a glimpse into the experience of SIT students and into the future of New Zealand’s burgeoning creative industries."

The demolition, strengthening and construction work would occur over the next two years, with completion in time for the 2021 academic year. After a competitive concept plan process, McCulloch Architects had been awarded the design work for the Centre. While Ms Simmonds acknowledged it would be sad for the St John’s parish to leave their much-loved church, SIT would be working closely with parish representatives to ensure the development enhanced and respected the church to give it longevity of use for the people of Southland. 

- Sharon Reece

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