The Sarjeant Art Gallery closed five years ago because it was considered an earthquake risk.
Now a centenary gift from the Government means it will reopen sooner than expected.
Known as one of the country’s most important heritage buildings, the gallery was given $12 million to start construction.
“It means we can start the programme of construction in the next couple of months and that programme is to complete the build by mid-2022,” Sarjeant Gallery project director Gaye Batty told 1 NEWS.
The extra money will be used for a new wing and makes up a shortfall from a decade of fundraising. The expected total cost now a lot higher than the previous estimate of $35 million.
“What we really want to do is to illustrate that the facility that we’ve got here is going to one of the best collecting and exhibiting spaces in the country when it’s redeveloped,” Greg Anderson director of Sarjeant Gallery says.
The future of many other buildings that need strengthening remains unclear. The town centre is home to around 100 heritage listed places.
Helen Craig from Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust said if they don’t start saving the buildings now they will lose them.
She’s calling for the Government to create tax deductions for remedial work and to further increase heritage funding.
“I do think that regional growth fund could have a big part to play here,” she says.