Iconic arts theatre for sale in ‘heartbreaking’ bid to stay afloat
It’s survived rumours of ghosts and a 1964 fire, but now the ‘biggest little theatre in Australia’ is selling its very soul, listing its iconic home in a “heartbreaking” fight for survival.
The Brisbane Arts Theatre – the first among not-for-profit community peers to hit $1m in earnings in a single year in 2016 – has seen its fortunes take a turn for the worst, especially in the wake of Covid-19.
Its iconic building where many Queensland actors first trod the boards has been listed for sale via expressions in a bid to keep the initiative afloat.
President Tallulah Grey said the community theatre received no organisational government funding and no Covid recovery funds from any of the Commonwealth or state programs targeting the arts.
“This has left the organisation in the heartbreaking position of seriously considering selling our beloved theatre on Petrie Terrace,” she said.
“While sale of the building would mean the loss of a timeless piece of Australian performing arts history, it would provide our organisation with the funding to continue to engage, educate and entertain the people of Brisbane into the future.”
She said the theatre had been entertaining audiences across South East Queensland since 1936.
“The theatre is especially proud of its long legacy of children’s theatre and education programs for people of all ages and abilities.”
The theatre building at 210 Petrie Terrace, Petrie Terrace, was listed for sale on July 8 in an expressions of interest campaign that closes August 4.
Ray White Commercial Queensland agent Michael McCullagh, who’s marketing the property with colleague David Atkinson, described it as a “quality vintage commercial opportunity” in a highly sought after suburb with strong potential for capital growth.
“We expect that interest will be quite strong from number of different groups,” Mr McCullagh said. “We think that both owner occupiers and developers will be interested in the site, particularly given the zoning.”
But, he added, a lot of the groups that had already been spoken to wanted to retain the character and history of the site.
“The Brisbane Arts Threate has been iconic for over 60 years in that location. A lot of the interest will be about incorporating some of that history into whatever they do into the future.”
Mr McCullagh said Petrie Terrace was a tightly held area, with firm commercial opportunity.
“The Brisbane fringe market has been very strong over the last couple of years particularly something like this which has a lot of future uses. There’s a lot of upside in a property like this.”
The 723sq m site has over 60m street frontage, with two street access, and is zoned for mixed use allowing redevelopment up to three storeys with council approval.
It is 800m from Roma Street train station where a 17,000-seat sports and entertainment venue has been proposed as part of Brisbane’s 2032 Olympic bid.
The Brisbane Arts Theatre is also keen on a flexible lease back arrangement while any new buyer decides on their plans for the site.
Founded in 1936 by Jean Trundle and Vic Hardgraves, the community group officially became known as Brisbane Arts Theatre in 1947 and went on to buy a former second-hand clothing store named Dan’s in Petrie Terrace in 1956 for £6000 to create its long-term home.
“This made Brisbane Arts Theatre the first theatre company in Brisbane to operate within its own theatre premises,” according to BAT.
The theatre survived a fire in 1964 which took a year to rebuild – with performances continuing off site during that time.
“Our beloved home was badly damaged by fire – but that didn’t stop us, and before long, we were up and running again.”