One of Wollongong’s most treasured buildings, the Regent Theatre, will soon be in new hands.
The building was listed for sale last August via Expressions of Interest.
Gateway City Church bought the 1200-seat theatre for $3.5 million in 2005, then spent $1 million on improvements, also turning the space into an occasional live music venue.
Harley Manson, executive of investment services at Colliers Wollongong couldn’t reveal many details at this stage, including who the buyer was or the sale price, but said the building was now under contract.
Mr Manson also couldn’t say much about the buyer’s plans, but said, “they intend to occupy it and reinvigorate it as a theatre”.
“There is the ability to develop above, but our understanding at this point is that’s not the intention,” he said.
“The main driver for the sale here is to use the theatre for what it’s designed to be used for. We expect to be able to say more in the coming months.
“In the short to medium term, the Gateway Church will continue to occupy it, and in time the purchaser will continue to do their work around eventually occupying the property themselves.”
Gateway City Church pastor Scott Hanzy said they had outgrown the venue.
“The options we’ll have is that we either use somewhere on a Sunday and hire just for that one day, and have a mid-week facility somewhere else, or we purchase another building in the city,” he said.
“I think for us we need a fresh start, we need something different. The reason for the sale is this venue doesn’t facilitate our needs.”
The building was previously placed on the market in October 2009, in a surprise sale bid that came to nothing.
In 2016, the owners of the building painted the beloved landmark olive green, after heritage investigations confirmed this was the facade’s original colour.
The main building and facade are listed under state heritage significance.
The air space above the offices located on level one are able to be redeveloped, subject to council approval.
Illawarra theatre owner Herbert Wyndham Jones planned the Regent’s construction during the 1930s and 1940s, but did not live to see it realised.
When it opened in 1957, with lavish art deco styling, it quickly asserted itself as the grandest picture theatre in the region.
Mr Jones’ wife and son ran the picture business before his daughter, Rowena Milgrove, took it on.
Mrs Milgrove died in January 2004, 20 days before she was going to close the cinema permanently, amid mounting financial pressure.