The Queensland Ballet has submitted an application for a $35 million redevelopment of The Thomas Dixon Centre, their home in West End into a state-of-the-art ballet centre.
Designed by Conrad Gargett, the proposed redevelopment involves the retention and refurbishment of the State-heritage listed Thomas Dixon Centre building, Wellness Centre and a new 3 storey 350-400 seat performance studio on the eastern side of the building.
The proposal is set to remove the ancillary sawtooth roof warehouse on the site, which is not heritage listed to facilitate the extension.
The new extension builds on the language of the former sawtooth roof workshop, expressing the factory metaphor as a place for the production of ballet. The proposed refurbishment of the existing building will also ensure the building meets current building and fire safety standards.
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According to the development application, a new central promenade will connect the existing building and new extension. The promenade overcomes the practical limitations of the existing building by enabling circulation between spaces outside of the studios, and fostering new connections between departments and the general public.
The promenade will also showcase the inner workings of each department and celebrate the history of the Queensland Ballet and the former shoe factory.
The expansion ensures that the Queensland Ballet attracts the highest standard of talent to the company and provides excellence in program delivery for professional dancers and the community.
According to the application, it is anticipated that the total number of full-time equivalent employees for Queensland Ballet would increase from approximately 100 to approximately 150 employees (including dancers and staff) which is an increase of approximately 50% to current employment levels on-site.
“The proposed redevelopment will create a world-class performing arts facility with an inspirational environment that will enable peak performance and nurture creativity,” – Queensland Ballet.
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Included in the redevelopment would be two additional off-site facilities. A dance space which is proposed at Kelvin Grove as well as a set and costumes facility which would mean large sets can be constructed in Queensland, some of which currently need to be built interstate and shipped to Queensland.
The site contains the State-heritage listed Thomas Dixon Centre along with an ancillary shed. The Thomas Dixon Centre building was constructed in 1908 as a shoe and boot manufacturing factory. It was constructed for Thomas Dixon of T C Dixon and Sons, bootmakers and tanners and designed by Richard Gailey Architects.
The Thomas Dixon Centre is a rare surviving example of an early twentieth-century industrial factory in West End.
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The company of T.C Dixon and Sons continued to operate from the West End factory until 1973. They sold the factory to K.D Morris and moved to new and larger premises at Wacol. In 1975, the premises was purchased by the Queensland Government and used as a store until 1991.
It became the home of the Queensland Ballet and the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra after undergoing a $1.8 million refurbishment. Whilst the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra no longer uses the site, Queensland Ballet continues to operate from the site since the refurbishment in 1991. The building was listed on the Heritage Register in 1998.
Li Cunxin, the famed Mao’s Last Dancer became Queensland Ballet’s artistic director in 2012 with Queensland Ballet achieving record audience growth of 33 percent in recent years.
Queensland Ballet has taken the step of proposing the new facility using the Ministerial Infrastructure Designation process instead of the standard Brisbane City Council Planning and Development. Under section 200 of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA), Ministerial Designation is a process where a state government Minister may designate land for community infrastructure.
An infrastructure designation is exempt from the assessment processes normally conducted against state and local planning instruments
According to the application, “an infrastructure designation is critical to facilitate the efficient and timely supply of the upgrade and expansion of the Queensland Ballet premises at the Thomas Dixon Centre,” – Saunders Havill Group.
Saunders Havill Group, in conjunction with Conrad Gargett has prepared a Draft Environmental Assessment Report (EAR) to provide information to the Minister and stakeholders about the redevelopment of the Queensland Ballet premises at the Thomas Dixon Centre.