Geelong Performing Arts Centre - Ryrie Street Redevelopment

Project Overview

online community engagement

The $38.5 million Ryrie Street redevelopment of the Geelong Performing Arts Centre is underway.

The project will:

  • Create a striking new and accessible Ryrie Street entrance to the arts centre;
  • Improve accessibility within the centre with universal access to the Playhouse Theatre and studios;
  • Improve the visitor experience, including two new foyers and a bar area;
  • Provide two new studios/rehearsal spaces and additional capacity for more studios as demand grows, ensuring the centre remains relevant and adaptable to future needs;
  • Incorporate dedicated spaces for a broader range of creative and education activities, creative entrepreneurs, children and youth, creative and production development.

The redevelopment will enable GPAC to able to attract a greater diversity of high quality productions from around Australia and internationally and will provide more opportunities for local artists, schools and community groups.

Trust welcomes new leadership

Trust welcomes new leadership

Cultural leader and experienced company director, Lesley Alway has been appointed Chair of the Geelong Performing Arts Centre Trust.

A former Director of Arts Victoria and CEO of Heide Museum of Modern Art, Ms Alway has a strong track record in cultural policy, management and international engagement spanning more than 30 years.

She has held leadership positions in the government, not-for-profit and private sectors, and has worked across the creative industries.

Most recently, Ms Alway was the Director of Asialink Arts, where she delivered a broad range of cultural exchange programs between Australia and Asia.

She is also a Board Director of Opera Australia, Deputy Chair of ACCA – Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and a member of the Australia-ASEAN Council appointed through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Ms Alway is based in Melbourne and Queenscliff.

The announcement comes as Joel McGuinness commences as CEO and the organisation farewells Jill Smith after a decade at the centre. 

Ms Alway said she was honoured to be joining at such an important time, as work progresses on the $38.5 million Ryrie Street redevelopment.

“I am looking forward to working with the Trust, Joel and his team, the centre’s partners and the community to help shape this next era for arts, culture and creativity in our region.

“Geelong Performing Arts Centre has a central place in the life of Geelong and the region. It was born from the community and continues to connect with, and provide opportunities for, artists and audiences of all ages,” she said.

Builder and artful transformation ready to go

Builder and artful transformation ready to go

31 Aug 2017

Work on Geelong Performing Arts Centre’s $38.5 million Ryrie Street Redevelopment will kick off in a matter of weeks with the appointment of award-winning builders Kane Constructions to deliver the project.

Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley joined local dancers of all ages from the Val Hannah School of Dancing and Karen Feldman Dance Studio to launch the Andrews Labor Government project.

The project will improve accessibility with universal access to the Playhouse Theatre and studios. It will include two new foyers and a bar area, and provide new spaces for creative practitioners and organisations and include four new state-of-the-art studios for rehearsals and creative development.

The architectural design blends the old and new, revealing the façade of the historic church on the site which has been hidden since 1920. A major public art commission will complete the design with an iconic artwork to be created for the Centre’s eastern exterior wall.

Expressions of interest are open from local, national and international artists to create this large-scale work with funding of between $300,000 and $500,000 available to commission the work.

Kane Constructions already has a strong presence in Geelong, with projects including the redevelopment of Simonds Stadium, the award-winning Geelong Library and Heritage Centre and the Playhouse Theatre.

Construction will commence in September and will create 100 jobs. The project is being managed by Development Victoria.

More detail on the public art commission can be found at, with expressions of interest closing on Wednesday 27 September.

View All
  • Playhouse temporary tunnel open for access to Doors 3 & 4

    Late May 2018 end of project

  • Demolition period

    November 2017 - Demolition work on Ryrie Street begins

  • Playhouse access modified

    Late November 2017 - Doors 3 & 4 to be closed for general access

  • Ryrie Street Redevelopment complete

    Mid 2019 - Ryrie Street redevelopment complete

  • Construction

    November 2017

  • Ryrie Street entrance closes

    Late October 2017 - Access from Ryrie Street and rear amenities closed

  • Police Lane closes

    Late October 2017 - Police Lane closes for construction work

  • Balcony closed for construction

    August 2017 - Balcony access closed to general public

  • Builders shortlisted

    June 2017 - Four shortlisted companies invited to submit a tender for the project

  • Planning approvals granted

    July 2017 - Planning Minister Richard Wynne approves project

  • Builder appointed

    August 2017 - Kane Constructions appointed to deliver the redevelopment

Demolition of the former shops and dance studios on Ryrie St began in November 2017 and has been a delicate, brick-by-brick process due to the complexity of the buildings and the integration of the old church into the new design.

The ‘Steeple Church’ opened in 1857 and was decommissioned in 1914 when the congregation moved to Newtown and the building was purchased by the Band of Hope Union.

The steeple was dismantled and a new building, incorporating a strip of shops, was built around the church, between Barwon Water and the former Mechanics Institute (and Plaza Theatre). 

The main hall of the church was leased to Geelong Association of Music and Art (GAMA) in 1946 and converted into a 280-seat theatre - Central Hall.

The adjacent Mechanics Institute was destroyed by fire - twice -  in the 1920s,  then rebuilt as the 950-seat Plaza Theatre.

By the 1950s, both the Plaza Theatre and GAMA theatres were deemed “hopelessly obsolete” but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the push for a new theatre gained momentum.

The State Government of the time agreed to pay $2 for every $1 raised through community fundraising efforts. After three years, and with $800,000 raised from the community (plus corporate sponsorships), the current Geelong Performing Arts Centre was built at a total cost of $7.8 million.

The Band of Hope building and Plaza Theatre were incorporated into the new Geelong Performing Arts Centre, which opened in 1981, boasting two theatres - the Ford Theatre (now The Playhouse) and the Blakiston (now Drama Theatre). Dance studios were accommodated in the former Steeple Church and upstairs of the former Mechanics Institute.

The Playhouse underwent a major facelift in 2010 (re-opening in 2011), however the rest of the centre has remained largely unchanged since it was built 37 years ago.

Many materials and fittings from the former buildings including leadlight glass windows, pressed tin from the ceiling, timber flooring, and even sandstone footings will find their way into new locations and uses as the project team actively seeks opportunities to re-purpose items from the site.