The hoardings are finally down outside St Matts church and complex on Manly Corso after almost three years of stop-start construction, revealing a near $16 million redevelopment.
St Matthews Anglican Church hosted an official opening in early March, showcasing the remarkable new Darley Smith Building to guests.
While the shop fronts are being gradually filled (Chemist Warehouse in one [to mixed reviews], and Anita Gelato in another), behind the faćades sits the unassumingly large new complex. And, while its primary function serves the connected church, its caretakers were keen to reiterate that this was a space for the community to use, albeit generally at a cost.
In addition to very large streamlined meeting and conference rooms, the Darley Smith Building contains a 180 seat auditorium, complete with stage, moveable stands and all the lights and screens you’d need for a show, a public talk, or dance. With few other indoor options, this could be a good venue for public forums. In fact Deputy Mayor Candy Bingham was the first to make a booking; she will hold a public talk on the future of Cabbage Tree Bay this Thursday.
St Matthews Rector, Senior Minister Bruce Clarke said it was an immense relief to have the construction work finally behind them.
“I’m sure I have a lot more grey hair than I used to, and some people have even lost theirs!” “We have not been able to have families with kids on site for 12 months…
“So why did we go on this long and difficult journey which sadly saw one builder go broke?”
“This will be a place where people can meet, gather and learn, and a place where the community can come and enjoy the facilities and blessings we have here.”
“I’ve had quite a few emails from people in the community expressing their desire to have the front hoarding come down, well yesterday it came down. Thank you for your patience.”
The Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, said he hadn’t much to do with the project aside from expertly knocking down a brick when it started almost three years ago, but he was impressed with the result. “Despite the travails over the last two and a half years what we have completed today is a marvellous multipurpose facility for the community, including this auditorium, I don’t think there is anything like it in Manly,” he said.
St Matthew’s Business Manager Christina Franze said pricing was still being worked out for venue hire, but some early bookings were being worked out.
The former childcare centre on the site (further around the corner) is no longer fit foruse due to an Ausgrid substation, so it’s understood a dentist will be leasing the space.
Further inside the courtyard there is a new playground which is accessible to the public.
It is hoped local favourites like Minikin and Babykin will resume soon.
The project was plagued with problems, with the original builders going broke during the build and delaying the works significantly. Church Warden and project Manager Tim Evans said he was thankful a new builder picked up the project, which was budgeted at $12 million but came in at $15.6 million.
The Darley Smith building was named after those who gifted the original church land, so-called Father of Manly Henry Gilbert Smith, as well as Katherine Darley (nee Wentworth)and family.
At the conclusion of the Darley Smith opening, St Matt’s music minister David Nduwimana, who fled the politically unstable African country of Burundi and sought refuge in Australia about eight years ago, performed beautifully for the audience.
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