The main street of Yass is undergoing something of a rural renaissance with the first stage of the historic Commercial Hotel restoration underway and plans afoot to bring the town’s Liberty Theatre back to centre stage.
The recent removal of the Commercial Hotel’s derelict verandah has given a new face to the old pub which locals and visitors had been viewed as an eyesore and vandals targeted frequently.
It was bought in 2021 by developers Andrew Turnbull and Anthony Barrie through a shelf company, Commercial Hotel Yass Pty Ltd with the goal of reopening the hotel as a family-friendly pub.
The current work is part of the town’s Main Street Master Plan with community consultation completed last week.
Yass Mayor Allan McGrath said it was remarkable how removing the old verandah could make such a transformation.
“That old verandah was such an eyesore as you came into town; it’s such a pleasure to see the restoration work start on the old place. It was a special moment,” he said.
“The next step is for the developers to replace the verandah and, under the Development Application, any material that can be reused in the restoration will be.”
Cr McGrath said he was impressed by how quickly the work was done: the security scaffolding went up in a couple of days and the verandah came down in about the same time.
“If the rest of the restoration work can happen at a similar pace that will be very exciting for the town,” he said.
Region Media understands that the developers are now working with their architect and hope to deliver designs to Council in the next few months.
Cr McGrath also said Yass Valley Council supported the Friends of the Liberty Theatre with its application for a $2.2 million grant from Create NSW to restore and refurbish the building opposite the Commercial.
“We have a passionate committee working to restore the Liberty and things can only happen if people make them do so,” he said.
“The fact their grant application has gone through to the next stage of the process is good news. I sincerely hope they are successful.
“Along with the Commercial Hotel restoration, this would really transform the main street.”
Friends of the Liberty Theatre propose replacing the stage, installing a digital drop-down screen and reupholstering the art deco theatre’s seats. The proposal also looks at reducing the number of seats from 700 to 350 for a more intimate setting.
The theatre will host live entertainment and movie classics on the big screen.
“Along with improved live theatre for the whole Yass Valley, key activities will include workshops in theatre, cinema and the arts for local young people, with many supported by the National Institute of Dramatic Art,” Friends of the Liberty Theatre’s Bimbi Turner said.
Yass Valley Council general manager Chris Berry said the theatre’s redevelopment would be a major drawcard for the town, benefiting workers, locals, visitors and businesses.
“We know this has long been a community wish,” he said. “Yass Valley Council is pleased to assist the Friends of the Liberty Theatre with the submission of their plans for a development application.”
If the grant is successful, it is expected the work, which includes improved disability access and more exhibition space for visiting artists and events, will be completed within two years. Stay tuned.