Fender Katsalidis has designed a new $5 million cultural and entertainment district for the centre of Hobart, which will be known as ‘In the Hanging Garden’.

Developer Riverlee is collaborating with Mona subsidiary DarkLab on a project to redevelop the historic Odeon Theatre on Liverpool street, a significant precinct spanning 6,834sqm.

The developers have a vision to create a unique place, and one of Australia’s best multi-venue live music precincts that could over time potentially encompass residential, commercial and hotel facilities.

The first stage of the cultural precinct will surround the Odeon Theatre and extend access through adjoining properties fronting Liverpool Street, Watchorn Street and Murray Street, acting as the beating heart of the site’s overarching vision.

Included in the first stage is ‘In the Hanging Garden’, an outdoor dining and beer garden, complete with rotating pop-up kitchens with local vendors.

Also included in the first stage of the precinct is the ‘Altar’ bar; a live music venue on the ground floor of the former Tattersalls Hotel, ‘High Altar’; a nightclub on the first floor of the hotel, and the Odeon Theatre, a live music venue in one of Tasmania’s oldest theatres.

Built in 1916, and believed to have been based on the Strand Theatre in New York, the Odeon Theatre has had different incarnations over the past century, including a 1100-seat movie theatre at one stage, before substantial upgrades in 1956, including changes to the Victorian façade.

Riverlee was granted Development Approval three years ago to demolish the Odeon, but followed a recommendation from council to explore opportunities to retain the building, which resulted in a partnership with DarkLab to preserve the famed building, while working collaboratively with the council to refine the plans to ensure the best possible outcome for the City of Hobart.

According to Riverlee development director David Lee, the first stage will serve as a constant feedback loop to refine what the people of Hobart want and need.

“We are committed to our vision of transforming this site into a vibrant cultural precinct for the city, but we want the precinct to be authentic, and to truly reflect the essence of Hobart and the community, so our plans for the site are ever-changing,” says Lee.

“In this first stage, we are excited to open up our doors and let the city in; to give the community the opportunity to explore the site, interact with the space, and to create their own culture. This first stage will provide a forum for community feedback, to help guide our future masterplan for the site.

“As a company, we place a huge importance on the preservation of heritage and the existing character of a site; we seek to create communities with distinct character and a strong sense of place and belonging and the Odeon precinct will be no different.”

DarkLab director Leigh Carmichael says if Hobart is to assert its reputation as a cultural leader in Australia, these types of projects are essential.

“It’s rare to find developers prepared to consider investments that benefit the community as well as the bottom line, so we hope the project is given the support it deserves, as it has the potential to be a game-changer for the CBD.”