Reading Cinema: Collapse of deal could be opportunity – business owner

A Wellington bar owner believes an indoor stadium could be the replacement needed for the shuttered Reading Cinemas building.

The cinema complex has been shut since 2019 due to its earthquake risk.

Wellington City Council had been working on a $32 million deal with Reading Cinemas to buy the land under the property and lease it back to the company.

But on Tuesday it was announced the council had called quits on the plan.

Owner of nearby bar Dakota, Jose Ubiaga, told RNZ abandoning the deal could be an opportunity.

Ubiaga said the land owned by the company, which includes the carpark at the back of the building, is massive.

“That space would be perfect for an indoor stadium like Vector Arena (now Spark Arena) in Auckland.

“It’s something Wellington’s been missing for a very long time.”

Jose Ubiaga, the owner of Dakota nightclub, says an ad for a glassie was supposed to be

He said getting a project like that across the line would need government help.

Ubiaga said they needed something that would be a big drawcard to the area.

The deal between the council and Reading Cinemas had the right intention, but the execution was not good, he said.

“I don’t think they are business-minded (enough) to come up with the right ideas that would actually be more beneficial to the city.”

Ubiaga said the council should make it difficult for building owners to leave their properties empty on Courtenay Place.

“The council should be putting pressure on all these building owners to either sell their spaces or invest in these spaces, and not just leave them sitting vacant, empty and derelict.”

Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Arcus said the collapse of the deal raised a lot more questions than answers.

“Ultimately we are left with a big hole in the city that needs to be solved.”

Arcus said it’s vital change comes to Courtenay Place whether through incentives or sanctions on building owners.

He said the council deal was never going to work for anyone.

“Ultimately Wellington was going to end up paying the price for an international multinational that wasn’t doing the right thing and developing its own cinemas.”

When the news was announced RNZ asked Wellington mayor Tory Whanau if she had faith Reading Cinemas would do anything with the building over the next 10 years.

“It’ll be a lot more difficult without us in the mix I have to say but I certainly hope that Reading will still proceed with other offers of partnership.” she said.

These included an offer from Wellington property developer and philanthropist Sir Mark Dunajtschik, who previously offered to buy the complex, at a council meeting earlier this year.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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