Geelong Performing Arts Centre - Ryrie Street Redevelopment

Project Overview

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.

Kane Constructions join GROW initiative

The Andrews Labor Government’s $37.5 million Geelong Performing Arts Centre (GPAC)redevelopment will provide employment and training opportunities to some of Geelong’s most disadvantaged job-seekers. .

Member for Geelong Christine Couzens, Member for Bellarine Lisa Neville and Member for Lara John Eren today joined Kane Construction at the site of the redevelopment to mark the start of demolition works and announce that Kane will be joining the G21 Region Opportunities for Work initiative.

GROW was launched in 2016 by Give Where You Live Foundation and the G21 Region Alliance and supported by $1 million from the Labor Government’s Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund. It connects businesses to job-seekers in areas of high unemployment rates.

In signing up to the program, Kane Constructions joins a wide range of organisations and businesses working together to reduce unemployment and tackle social and economic disadvantage in the Geelong region.

The Labor Government’s GPAC Redevelopment will transform the 36-year-old arts centre inside and out– with a striking new and accessible entrance, expanded facilities, and new foyers, bars, rehearsal studios and creative development spaces.

The project is expected to create more than 100 local jobs and be a major driver of the revitalisation of Geelong’s CBD and economic growth in the region.

Quote attributable to Member for Geelong Christine Couzens

Our GPAC redevelopment will revitalise Geelong and deliver important social and economic opportunities for some of our region’s most disadvantaged.”

Quote attributable to Member for Bellarine Lisa Neville

“Kane has worked on a number of transformative projects for Geelong and this deepens their commitment to the region, to local jobs and to creating opportunities that will transform people’s lives.”

Quote attributable to Member for Lara John Eren

“Local procurement is an important way to drive economic growth and job creation in our region. By signing up to GROW, Kane will join a collaborative effort to tackle unemployment and social disadvantage.”

Quote attributable to CEO for G21, Elaine Carbines

“It’s wonderful to see work begin on this G21 priority project, and especially pleasing that Kane has adopted the GROW principles of wherever possible employing and procuring locally to benefit the regional economy.”

Quote attributable to CEO for Give Where You Live Bill Mithen

“Kane Constructions joins 70 other local organisations in signing the GROW Compact. We are delighted that they will use their purchasing power to create jobs and opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

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.

View All
  • Out of the Ground

    July 2018

    Raft and slab pour.

    Steel on site.

  • 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.