Her Majesty’s Theatre works starting to come to life

Her Majesty's Theatre Redevelopment Stage 3 works are progressing well.

The main stage of the theatre showing works to the seating and balustrade

A vital project to bring one of Ballarat’s most beloved facilities into the 21st century remains on track for completion.

The Her Majesty’s Theatre Stage 3 works are currently being undertaken to improve the capability, accessibility, and safety of the 148-year-old theatre.

When finished, the project will provide full accessibility to the theatre for patrons, staff and performers through the construction of two new lifts, an improved front-of-house area, new toilet facilities, administration area and associated compliance works.

Construction is due for completion in mid-2024, followed by an estimated two-month operational period to re-establish the facility as Ballarat’s beating heart of creative and artistic life.

Works that have been done since the project began in February 2023 include:

  • Demolition in accordance with Heritage Victoria approvals to make way for the new works. This has included removal of existing floors, creation of openings in bluestone walls and removal of non-compliant or failing structures.  
  • Excavations, including removal of contaminated soil. Contamination has primarily consisted of bituminous floor surfaces, which must be treated as Category A material in line with EPA requirements. The presence of this material was not known until concrete floors were removed through several areas of the theatre.  
  • Underpinning of load bearing walls to the theatre and adjoining properties to ensure structural integrity where foundations have been exposed as part of the works. This work has been completed in line with the Structural Engineers designs, but in some areas has involved additional works beyond what was anticipated.    
  • Ongoing assessment of the existing structure and rectification works to ensure structural integrity and compliance. This includes monitoring of the new back-of-house lift to record any structural settlement and the repair of existing fire walls where damage has been identified.
  • Construction of two new lift shafts and accessible pathways in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act. Works to the back-of-house lift have required the use of bored piers to a depth of approximately six metres below ground due to not finding suitable founding material to meet structural requirements.    
  • Installation of 12-metre-high tilt panels on the new fire stairs in Unicorn Lane. Excavation for these elements unearthed a substantial void below ground, initially suspected as being mine workings, that required a redesign of the structural solution.  
  • Installation of building services to ensure safety and comfort of patrons and staff. This includes fire sprinklers to protect auditorium structures, new air handling and building management systems and new security controls.  

Since Stage 3 works began at Her Majesty’s the construction team has encountered several latent conditions (existing structural issues) during the course of the works that have required rectification.

The issues included rotten floor structures, unstable ground conditions, contaminated soil, historic fire damage, and other issues associated with a building that will celebrate its 150th year in 2025.  

The issues have been more significant than anticipated and were not able to be identified until the demolition of existing floors, walls and ceilings began.

Many of the conditions require significant work to repair and rectify and subsequently have resulted in a direct impact on the allocated project budget. These issues identified during the project will result in the initial project budget contingency being fully exhausted.

A quarterly financial report to be considered by Ballarat City Council at the November Council meeting on Wednesday night will outline a request for an additional $2.4 million that needs to be allocated to complete the project.

If approved, the additional $2.4 million would:

  • cover current variations that have been identified to date,
  • allow for potential future variations estimated by a quantity surveyor and,
  • allow for a new 10 per cent contingency on the estimated $7 million worth of construction yet to be completed.

City of Ballarat Mayor, Cr Des Hudson said the extra funding for the project was necessary to ensure the facility was suitably accessible to all people and remained one of Ballarat’s premier assets long into the future.

“As is the case when you are dealing with such historical buildings, it is difficult to fully gauge what lies beneath until you start peeling away the layers of almost 150 years of construction,” Cr Hudson said.

“This is such an important project in our commitment to delivering a better Ballarat. It is vital we proceed and do it properly to ensure Her Majesty’s Theatre is a venue that can continue to be loved and enjoyed by many generations to come.

“Importantly, the works that are being conducted now will allow for ongoing operations in the future that won’t require extensive interruptions to the theatre.”

The revised project budget would total $16.3 million if approved, supported by $10 million from the State Government’s Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund.