The restored Burton Street Tabernacle will be transformed into a new theatre, gallery and cafÃ© with construction work ready to start in coming weeks.
Completed in 1887 for the Woolloomooloo Baptist Church, the Burton Street Tabernacle was a focus of Baptist worship from the late nineteenth century until it was closed in 1996. In 1930 it was the venue at which Arthur Stace heard a sermon by Reverend John Ridley, which inspired him to write "Eternity" on the streets of Sydney for the next 40 years.
The City purchased the site in 2004 and we have painstakingly restored the dilapidated exterior, stained glass windows, raked floor and heritage slate roof.
Now it will be converted into a 200-seat theatre space, with a public foyer, gallery, cafÃ© and back of house area with office space and dressing rooms. The work will be guided by plans from Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects who designed the restorations of Paddington Reservoir Gardens and the CarriageWorks at Eveleigh.
Last month, Council agreed to publicly exhibit a proposal to call the building "The Tabernacle Theatre". I encourage you to make a submission and let us know what you think.
The heritage faÃ§ade of the building on Burton Street already proclaims "Burton Street Tabernacle" and new signage for the theatre will be designed once the community has had its say on a name.
The completed building will be leased to the Darlinghurst Theatre Company under the City's Accommodation Grants Program and is expected to open for performances in early 2013.
It is the latest addition to the rich vein of grassroots performance venues in the area including the SBW Stables Theatre, Cell Block Theatre and Old Fitzroy Theatre - as well as the Reg Murphy Centre, which the Council has agreed to retain as a theatre.
Sydney's small theatre sector is a powerhouse for Australia's cultural life. Small theatres have given many of our finest actors, directors, writers and designers their first break - including talents such as Cate Blanchett, Brian Brown, David Williamson and Brendan Cowell.