A proposed design concept for the redevelopment of a beloved theatre in the Parramatta CBD has drawn criticism.

The Roxy Theatre on George Street, Parramatta has been around since 1930, when it was run as a cinema by entertainment chains Hoyts and Village. The cinema closed in 2002 and was bought by developer David Kingston of K Capital Group, and run as a hotel and nightclub until 2014.  

Currently, the site is sitting vacant, with an architectural design competition in the works to source designs for a facility with a 700-seat theatre, ballroom, function centre, restaurants, cafes and shops. Kingston plans to restore the heritage-listed theatre and build a 33 storey tower above.

However, a proposal for a concept development application lodged with Parramatta Council has drawn criticism from some of the theatre’s advocates.

Vice president of the Parramatta branch of the National Trust, Led Tod, referred to the plans as “cultural vandalism” and said the proposed development missed the chance to create a venue for 1500 people that could host large-scale shows and concerts. He also expressed concern that the construction of the tower would impact on the heritage-listed theatre.

Kingston has defended the decision to retain the Roxy as a small theatre, stating that there is not enough room for 1500 people. He also assured that the theatre will not be touched during the construction of the high-rise building above, due to the use of columns outside the theatre. 

A render of the proposed design by RAA Architects shows a high-rise connected to the back of the Roxy Theatre. Image: RAA Architects

According to RAA Architects director Joseph Alliker, the decision for a mixed-use tower at the rear of the theatre makes sense.

“It’s essential to the ongoing use of the theatre. That kind of small cinema won’t pay for itself,” he tells Architecture & Design

“And it’s right in the middle of the Parramatta CBD,” he adds, noting that 29 storeys of the high-rise could be dedicated to office space.

The remaining levels could form an entertainment, performance and function centre anchored by the restored Roxy auditorium, notes RAA Architects’ website.

“This is a concept DA proposal which looks at the critical elements of the site and its surroundings and proposes a simple reference design that demonstrates how a tower can respect and further improve the functional and social aspects of the Roxy as a vital part of the City of Parramatta,” states the website.