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Source: Auckland Council

The development of a detailed business case for the restoration, modernisation and seismic remediation of the Leys Institute buildings has been given the go-ahead by Waitematā Local Board.

The 114-year old council-owned buildings closed in December 2019 following a seismic assessment that indicated structural issues meant they could be unsafe in the event of an earthquake.

The buildings housed a library and gymnasium and were gifted to Auckland Council by the Leys family in 1964.

The board’s decision was based on a report which indicated that restoration was the preferred option to meet the ongoing and future needs of local people, and that the provision and restoration of a fit-for-purpose library was the best financial outcome.

Council’s analysis of Ponsonby and west Waitematā shows a growing demand for library services in the area and for improved facility flexibility to deliver modern library services for changing customer needs.

The local board also emphasised the importance of preserving the heritage value of the Leys Institute, as a scheduled Category A heritage building, noting that the Leys Institute Trust Deed requires library services to be delivered from the buildings.

Waitematā Local Board chair Richard Northey says the case for restoring the buildings is compelling.

“The Leys buildings are much-loved by locals and visitors alike. They are an important part of the identity of our community and we cannot lose them.

“This, combined with a shortfall in library services and a growing population in this area, means now’s the time to start the process of restoration.

“The financial impacts of COVID-19 will obviously have an impact on how quickly this work can proceed, but we will continue to explore all possible funding options to ensure we can progress with the local board’s preferred option.”

The indicative costs for the restoration are between $15 and 22 million. The preparation of the detailed business case will help determine more accurate costs for the work.

The local board wants to investigate a range of options to help fund the project, noting the potential for funding options like selling other properties, philanthropic donations, targeted rates, and community fundraising.

Next steps

Subject to the Long-term Plan, work on the detailed business case will begin in 2021/2022.

A timeframe for the commencement of restoration work will be dependent upon the findings and recommendations from the detailed business case and the availability of funding.