Star turn offer to council
LISMORE City Council will tonight consider taking over the city's historic Star Court Theatre after the building's owner and a senior member of performing arts group NORPA asked the council to buy it.
The theatre dates back to the early 1920s when it was an open-air cinema. The theatre was bought in 1996 by Lismore businessman Florian Volpato renowned as the first person to bring an espresso machine to Lismore to provide NORPA with a performance venue.
It is understood Mr Volpato's son, Nick, who now owns the theatre, and NORPA deputy chairman Dr Andrew Binns asked the council to buy the building and run it in the same way it runs the old Lismore City Hall, which is also used by NORPA.
Nick Volpato could not be contacted yesterday. Dr Binns said the council had been offered 'an opportunity' to buy the building.
"The Star Court Theatre is a beautiful theatre with excellent acoustics and excellent sight lines," Dr Binns said. "It seats 390 people and it's been a theatre for a long time. It's part of our heritage.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for our community to have a facility like that kept in our community. It's a beautiful theatre and there's an opportunity for it to be owned by the council indefinitely."
However, owning the theatre might be an expensive honour for the city's ratepayers.
An officer's report to tonight's council meeting makes no recommendation either way for the city's councillors, but points out that the council would have to borrow money to buy the building and then be faced with ongoing maintenance costs of about $20,000 a year.
While the report did not reveal the cost of buying the theatre, it did say it would 'exacerbate' the strain on a council budget already trying to cope with big projects such as the refurbishment and redevelopment of the old city hall.
"The building is currently for sale and should it sell to private interests there is no guarantee it will remain available to NORPA and the community," the report says. "Council has an opportunity to purchase the building and therefore protect its future and the benefits that it provides to the local community.
"However, council already has significant commitments and is not well placed to provide the necessary funding to purchase the building."
Lismore councillor and arts supporter Ros Irwin said she expected to argue against the council buying the building, saying the costs could go beyond those outlined in the report.
The age of the building meant there was no way to be sure of the cost of maintaining it, and the lack of disabled access meant the council could spend unknown amounts of money renovating the building to meet access rules.