Perth Cultural Center in Northbridge receives funding in WA budget for $35 million facelift

The WA government has revealed its plans for the renovation of the Perth Cultural Center, but cannot say when work on the $35 million project will begin.

The redevelopment will transform the space between the WA Museum Boola Bardip, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the State Library and the State Theater Center from a largely “concrete desert” into a welcoming public space for people to visit.

The existing amphitheater will be demolished to make way for a more accessible, differentiated streetscape and the art gallery parking lot will be removed to provide a better connection to Beaufortstraat.

The project aims to increase safety and attract families to the area by opening up underused spaces, improving lighting and providing spaces for children.

The amphitheater at the Perth Cultural Center
The amphitheater is being demolished to create a more accessible, stepped streetscape. ABC News: Samia O’Keefe

Local Government Minister John Carey described the Perth Cultural Center as the heart and soul of the city, but admitted it had seen better days.

Children play in fountains under a round gazebo
The “central heart” of the district includes a water playground and a shaded gazebo.Supplied: WA government

“You don’t have to be Einstein to look at this current place as it is, it’s a concrete desert, it’s not very friendly and it has a bit of a [reputation]’ said Mr Carey.

“This plan transforms the cultural center into a tree-lined boulevard, a water playground, a family-friendly center and I think the arts institutions around here deserve that.”

John Carey and Jessica Shaw review plans for the Perth Cultural Center
Local Government Secretary John Carey and Chair of the Perth Cultural Center Taskforce Jessica Shaw are reviewing the plans.ABC News: Samia O’Keefe

Jessica Shaw, chair of the Perth Cultural Center Taskforce, which was established in 2019 to revitalize the area, said the redevelopment would do for culture and arts what Perth Stadium did for sports.

“It’s going to bring new life to the city and give culture and art some sort of priority [and] focus it deserves, which is vibrant and interesting and has such an incredible arts community.

She added that it would also celebrate the cultural heritage of Indigenous Australians.

“It is so important that we celebrate and fully express the Aboriginal heritage we have here in the city of Perth,” said Ms Shaw.

People mill around the Perth Cultural Center
The proposed Roe Street entrance to the Perth Cultural Center.Supplied: WA government

No start date amid construction challenges

A joint $20 million pledge from the state and federal governments for the project was previously announced as part of the $1.7 billion Perth City deal, but the state government will now top that with an additional $15 million thanks to the huge surplus that in the past weekly budget.

The Perth Cultural Center looking at the art gallery
The current view from the Perth Cultural Center towards the library and art gallery.ABC News: Samia O’Keefe
A concept image of a renovated paved area with a view of the WA . State Library
The suggested view from James Street west to the library. Supplied: WA government

But despite adequate funding for the available work, the state’s desperately overheated construction industry means there is no start and eventual finish date for the project.

“We have to be realistic here and the reality is that we’re dealing with a heated construction market and that’s why the government has tempered the infrastructure so we don’t create those cost increases.”

What James Street East will look like with a wetland
A concept image of James Street to the east overlooking the revamped wetland. Supplied: WA government

Mr Carey also pointed out some engineering and engineering design challenges arising from site location, which must be completed before the project start date is set.

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