Auckland's St James Theatre has been sold and is a step closer to opening its doors again.
But there will be some drastic changes to the theatre's exterior, and the city's skyline.
New owner Relianz Holdings will build a 39 storey residential tower to be known as the St James Suites.
There will also be a 3000 square metre retail area and 195 car parks, with developers promising to "rejuvenate" the area around Aotea Square.
Development director Mike Gibbon, Elemental Construction Solutions (ECS), said the build would generate thousands of jobs.
"But perhaps the most significant contribution to greater Auckland is the potential to re-open the famed St James Theatre."
Relianz Holdings will work with the Auckland Notable Properties Trust to find out what is needed to re-open it - including seismic and other safety work.
An agreement has been drawn with the intention of working together towards upgrading the theatre to what they say will be "modern and safe standards for a potential re-opening".
St James Theatre, a Category One heritage building, opened in 1928 but has been closed since 2007 after a fire in neighbouring building.
It used to be one of Auckland's most popular venues and there has been a years-long campaign for it to open again.
ECS is managing the entire construction and Mr Gibbon said its investigation into whether the doors could open again would be the focus of thorough investigation.
The early signs looked promising, and the planned development would not affect the "existing fabric" of the building.
"Until the sale was wrapped up it was impossible for us to conduct the depth of evaluation needed to detail the scope of work on St James.
"Now we have full access, we will be able to develop a more thorough scope of work."
Mr Gibbon said all work would be scrutinised by Heritage New Zealand.
No budget set
Developers said a budget and funding for working on the theatre has not been agreed upon.
They said it was expected Relianz Holdings, Auckland Council and the Auckland Notable Properties Trust could each pay towards a re-opening.
The rest of the project, excluding the St James, is expected to cost about $175 million.
In statements provided by the site's buyers, Auckland mayor Len Brown said he believed a re-opening would be a fantastic result for all Aucklanders and that the St James Theatre was an icon "in the truest sense".
"Preserving the St James and seeing it re-opened has been a high priority for Auckland Council and for me personally, so it is great to see the private sector taking a big step towards that," he said.
Heritage New Zealand 'delighted'
Heritage New Zealand northern general manager Sherry Reynolds said the St James was the only theatre of its type left in the country.
"Its highly decorated interior is an unusual blend of traditional theatre and American picture house design, and the theatre itself is a unique example of early 20th Century picture palace architecture."
She said the theatre was a special memory for many Aucklanders, and it is a significant heritage asset for the city that is in urgent need of attention.
What happens next
- Jan/Feb 2015 - residential sales begin at sales office onsite
- mid 2015 - St James Theatre evaluation complete
- second half of 2015 - construction of the residential tower and retail space begins
- late 2015 - scope of work for the St James to be finalised and construction to begin shortly after
- 2018 - project completed
History of the St James
- designed by Dunedin-born architect Henry Eli White, opened on 5 July 1928
- played host to performances by Lawrence Olivier, Vivian Leigh, the Bolshoi Ballet, and the 1981 Royal Variety Performance for Queen Elizabeth II
- a performance theatre intended primarily for vaudeville acts, the St James went on to host cinema, plays, operas, and musicals
- closed in 2007 due to concerns after a fire in an adjacent building