25/06/2008 - 22:00

St Mary’s restoration could prove a catalyst for change

25/06/2008 - 22:00

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The $25 million restoration of St Mary's Cathedral is on track for completion next year, but the Catholic Church hopes it is just the beginning of a major redevelopment of the area that could lead to a mixed retail, office and residential precinct leading

St Mary’s restoration could prove a catalyst for change

The $25 million restoration of St Mary's Cathedral is on track for completion next year, but the Catholic Church hopes it is just the beginning of a major redevelopment of the area that could lead to a mixed retail, office and residential precinct leading from Hay Street to Victoria Square.

The main construction project, to be completed midway through next year, will replace the middle section of the cathedral, which was never completed in line with the original design due to the Great Depression.

The new design, by Subiaco-based architect Peter Quinn, will retain the 1865 section of the building, while placing a new altar in the middle of the cathedral.

An external piazza, with wings on the east and west sides, will increase the building's capacity to 1,600 people.

Underneath, a crypt will be installed, as well as an underground car park and offices for the church.

Bishop's Palace - home to the cathedral's dean and priests of the church, as well as the archbishop's offices - is also undergoing a complete refurbishment as part of the project.

However, a much broader development is mooted for a series of properties the Catholic Church owns, connecting Murray and Hay streets.

The 3,400 square metre parcel of land contains a number of houses and office buildings, but plans are under way to construct an arcade with ground floor retail, first floor offices and apartments.

The arcade would run between the City of Perth's fire station car park and Bishop's Palace.

While negotiations are yet to commence with other stakeholders - namely the state government and the City of Perth - the Catholic Church is hopeful that discussions could be underway within a year.

According to St Mary's Cathedral fundraising appeal manager Brett Mendez, the cathedral restoration could be the catalyst for a revival of the whole Victoria Square precinct, perhaps ultimately including the Royal Perth Hospital site.

"We hope to bring people to live and work around the cathedral," he said.

"We think this development would enhance the city from a community perspective, and be an appropriate use of the land for future generations of Catholics."

Funding for the cathedral conservation project has come from a wide variety of sources, including both the federal and state governments ($4 million and $3 million, respectively), private benefactors, the Catholic Church, the Archdiocese and the community.

Individual gifts of up to $500,000 have been received.

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