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Perth Cultural Center in Northbridge gets funding in WA budget for $35 million facelift

The WA government has unveiled its plans for the revamp of the Perth Cultural Center but can’t say when working on the $35 million project will begin.

The redevelopment will see the space between the WA Museum Boola Bardip, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the State Library and State Theater Center transformed from a largely “concrete desert” into a welcoming public space for people to visit.

The existing amphitheater will be demolished to make way for a more accessible, graded streetscape and the art gallery car park will be removed to provide better connections to Beaufort Street.

The project aims to enhance safety and attract families to the area through opening up under-utilized spaces, improving lighting and offering spaces for children.

The amphitheater will be demolished to create a more accessible, graded streetscape. (ABC News: Samia O’Keefe)

Local Government Minister John Carey described the Perth Cultural Center as the heart and soul of the city but conceded it had been seen better times.

Children play in fountains underneath a circular tree
The precinct’s “central heart” will include a water play area and shaded arbor.(Supplied: WA government)

“You don’t have to be an Einstein to look at this current place as it is, it’s a concrete desert, it’s not very friendly, and it’s got a bit of a [reputation],” Mr Carey said.

“This plan will transform the cultural center into a tree-lined boulevard, a water playground, a family friendly center and I think the arts institutions around here deserve that.”

John Carey and Jessica Shaw look over the plans for the Perth Cultural Center
Local Government Minister John Carey and Perth Cultural Center Taskforce Chair Jessica Shaw look over the plans.(ABC News: Samia O’Keefe)

Jessica Shaw, chair of the Perth Cultural Center Taskforce, which was formed in 2019 to reinvigorate the area, said the redevelopment would do for culture and the arts what Perth Stadium did for sport.

“It’s going to bring new life into the city and give culture and the arts a sort of priority [and] focus it deserves, which is vibrant and interesting and has such an incredible arts community.

She added it would also celebrate the cultural heritage of Indigenous Australians.

“It’s so important that we celebrate and give full expression to the Aboriginal heritage that we have here in the City of Perth,” Ms Shaw said.

People mill around the Perth Cultural Center
The proposed Roe Street entrance to the Perth Cultural Centre.(Supplied: WA government)

No start date amid construction challenges

A joint commitment of $20 million from the state and federal governments for the project had previously been announced as part of the $1.7 billion Perth City deal but the state government will now top that up with an extra $15 million thanks to the massive surplus revealed in last week’s budget.

The Perth Cultural Center looking towards the art gallery
The current view of the Perth Cultural Center towards the library and art gallery.(ABC News: Samia O’Keefe)
A concept image of a revamped paved area with a view of the State Library WA
The proposed view from James Street west towards the library. (Supplied: WA government)

But despite plenty of cash for the work being available, the state’s desperately overheated construction sector means there is no start — and ultimately finish — date for the project.

“We’ve got to be realistic here and the reality is we do face a heated construction market and so the government has been pacing out infrastructure so we don’t create those cost escalations.”

What James Street east will look like with a wetland
A concept image showing James Street east with a view of the revamped wetland. (Supplied: WA government)

Mr Carey also pointed to some engineering and technical design challenges resulting from the site’s location, which will need to be finalized before committing to the project’s start date.

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