The long and expensive saga of the Newcastle Art Gallery expansion has taken another twist after City of Newcastle re-engaged the architects to adapt their 2012 design.
The council entered into a $159,000 contract with Smith & Tzannes Architecture in May to add more exhibition space to the plans the company drew up eight years ago.
The Newcastle Herald reported in 2015 that the redevelopment, described by former council general manager Ken Gouldthorp in 2014 as "among the worst-managed projects I have ever seen in local government'', had cost ratepayers $3.2 million in design fees and internal staff expenses over 10 years.
Among the money lavished on the gallery's as yet unrealised redevelopment were $411,000 for a design competition and design by LAB Architects from 2005 to 2008, $292,000 to government architects from 2008 to 2001 and an $830,000 contract for Smith & Tzannes in 2012.
Asked two weeks ago about the latest Smith & Tzannes contract for "architectural design and documentation", the council said it was "completing design documents in line with development approval in 2012".
The council handed back a $7 million federal grant for the gallery in 2014 after failing to secure state funding.
At that point the project had a price tag of $21 million, though former lord mayor Jeff McCloy complained at the time that various costings varied widely.
The most recent council estimate for the project is $36 million.
NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin has continued to bypass the gallery expansion in recent budget allocations.
State Liberal Upper House MP Taylor Martin and federal backbencher Hollie Hughes, the Hunter's new duty senator, met with lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes and other council representatives in Newcastle on Monday to discuss the project.
Mr Martin said he and Ms Hughes would lobby on behalf of the city and encouraged the council to apply for funding through state and federal grants programs.
He said a $10 million bequest to Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation by gallery patron Valerie Ryan in November would "go a long way" to helping build a case for government funding.
"It's a long-term thing. It's not in disrepair or anything," Mr Martin said.
"Yes, it needs to be brought into the 21st century, to have exhibition space, to have space to store all the art works, cafe, gift shop and all the things it would have if you were to build a gallery today."
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