Marlborough District Council has purchased the land occupied by the old Liquorland building at 1 High Street, Blenheim from the Millennium Art Gallery Foundation Trust, for the planned new Marlborough district library and art gallery.
The purchase comes after preparatory work by Council and art gallery representatives to enable the project to proceed to finalising its concept designs.
In 2013, the Council’s ‘Growing Marlborough - A Strategy for the Future’ identified that Marlborough’s libraries in Blenheim and Picton were no longer adequate to serve the community’s needs and expectations. The new $6m Picton Library and Service Centre - Waitohi Whare Mātauranga - was opened in 2018, and has enjoyed increased patronage and positive feedback from the community. Growing Marlborough also identified the opportunity to strengthen connections between Blenheim’s town centre and the Taylor River.
After public consultation through its Long Term Plan in 2015, the Council decided to build a new district library and art gallery in Blenheim. The library attracts significant foot traffic, which will provide renewed vitality to lower High Street and further open up the river to the town. The Millennium Art Gallery will attract visitors in its new location and overcome its current capacity constraints.
Mayor John Leggett said the Council is taking a careful approach to managing and overseeing the planned Blenheim build.
“Planning started in 2017 through a Project Control Group (PCG) that includes Council and art gallery representatives. The role of the PCG is to govern the development with a strong focus on risk management.”
“The development is estimated to cost $20 million, with Council’s share at $15 million and the gallery’s at $5 million, plus $400,000 in fit out costs,” Mayor Leggett says.
“The gallery will need to raise additional funds through Central Government funding applications.”
Rick Wilson, Chairman of the Millennium Public Art Gallery Trust said:
“We are delighted that the Council has committed to this exciting project. The Trust has already received a gift of $1 million from a benefactor who was also responsible for securing this unique site for Council.
“Having outgrown its current premises, the new gallery will provide environmental and operational facilities to the highest professional standards in accordance with the national requirements for public art galleries in New Zealand, as required by Museums Aotearoa.”
“This will allow:
- exciting exhibitions of rare and valuable works to be brought to the region previously unable to be exhibited in Marlborough;
- professional exhibition, storage and management of Marlborough’s two public art collections - the Gallery’s and the Council’s;
- a stimulating environment for ongoing public and educational programmes.
“We also look forward to a fantastic synergy with the library in this key new civic amenity for Marlborough.”
Bobbie Glennie, Chairperson of the Friends of the Marlborough District Libraries said:
“The Friends of the Marlborough District Libraries are delighted to know that plans are progressing for a new library and art gallery for Blenheim. We commend the Council for advancing this project with the purchase of the High Street site. The present District Library has become extremely cramped over recent years, making it difficult to expand and develop services and programmes similar to those now offered by other libraries. A new library in Blenheim has been long overdue and will be welcomed with relief by Friends of the Marlborough District Libraries and all borrowers.”
The development has a design timeframe of nine months and a tender and construction period of approximately two years. Demolition of the old Liquorland and Warehouse Stationary buildings is expected to get underway in the first quarter of next year.
Architects Warren and Mahoney were commissioned to prepare the concept plan and are progressing the building’s floor plan and concept design elements, which will become available for public viewing later this year. Warren and Mahoney has wide experience in library and gallery builds, including the National Library of New Zealand in Wellington, Nelson’s Suter Gallery, Te Papa public gallery, the Martinborough Community Centre and Library, and the Kaiapoi Ruataniwha Centre in North Canterbury.
Lead architect Richard McGowan says the Blenheim building will take advantage of a superb site, centrally located with a northern aspect and immediate connections to the Taylor River.
“The project will act as a gateway for Blenheim, signalling civic identity for locals and visitors alike. The building can connect to public outdoor spaces and its riverside site, and will be able communicate messages of cultural identity, civic pride and regional excellence,” he says.