The Powerhouse precinct in Parramatta – more than a museum

Powerhouse Parramatta will open on the river foreshore in 2025 as the new centre of arts, culture and innovation. The precinct includes the newly relocated museum and the revamped Riverside Theatres.

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Powerhouse Parramatta will open on the river foreshore in 2025 as the new centre of arts, culture and innovation. The precinct includes the newly relocated museum and the revamped Riverside Theatres.

When complete, it will be the first NSW State Cultural Institution to be based in Western Sydney and is the largest cultural infrastructure project in NSW since the Sydney Opera House which took 14 years to build, opening in 1973.

Powerhouse Parramatta will also be the largest museum in NSW at 30,000 square metres. More than half of the new museum will house the exhibitions and education programs, sharing more of the Powerhouse Collection than has ever been seen before. The state-of-the-art exhibition halls will host international travelling exhibitions, bringing the very best of the world to Parramatta.

Economic modelling shows that by 2028 the new cultural precinct will grow the local economy worth between $106 million and $422 million. Once the museum is open, local jobs are expected to increase by between 150 and 600 new full-time equivalent jobs.

Construction update

Main construction work commenced in January 2022, and the project is on track to open to the public in 2024. In the first half of 2022, excavation and earthworks will take place as well as site establishment and compound set-up.

Despite some media commentary, the flood event which impacted the Parramatta River in March 2022 would not have come within four metres of the future museum ground floor.

Exclusive programs

The new museum will provide school students and the broader community with knowledge and hands-on experience of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).

While the construction is underway, Powerhouse Parramatta staff are working on commissioning the first three years of programming. The focus is on offering exclusive programs for Parramatta, providing an incentive for people to visit the new facility.

The programs will reflect the social and cultural diversity of Parramatta and Western Sydney in the programs the museum offers.

With more than two million visitors expected to visit the museum in the first year, new employment opportunities will be created that will benefit the local community, Greater Sydney and NSW.

Generous contributions

A $20 million donation from the Walker Family Foundation will deliver the Lang Walker Family Academy within the Powerhouse Parramatta. It will offer world-class immersive STEAM education experiences for over 10,000 high school students from Western Sydney and regional NSW every year, including overnight stays at the museum for many of these students.

Additionally, Western Sydney University has committed $10 million to Powerhouse Parramatta, confirming its place as the museum’s Foundation University Partner and reinforcing its commitment to developing the next generation of Australian innovators, scientists and entrepreneurs.

Contribution to night-time economy

The Powerhouse Precinct will be a 24-hour tourist attraction seven days a week. It will drive visitation to the area, stimulating the Powerhouse Precinct economy and present opportunities for cafes, bars and retail stores.

The recent Global Cities After Dark Parramatta week-long program of workshops shone a light on the opportunities by bringing many stakeholders together to discuss the possibilities that the night-time economy can bring. 

In good hands

The Powerhouse Parramatta CEO Lisa Havilah was named in the list of 100 most influential people in Sydney, and she’s taking on the challenge to attract both the local community and visitors to the museum.

She has an understanding of the potential for an arts and culture precinct in Western Sydney. From 1998 to 2004 she served as Assistant Director of Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, and from 2005 to 2011 was Director of Campbelltown Arts Centre. Under her directorship, Campbelltown Arts Centre pioneered an internationally renowned contemporary art program that brought together culturally and socially diverse communities through the process of producing contemporary art.

Powerhouse museum river foreshore activations

Riverside Theatres redevelopment

The revamped Riverside Theatres performing arts centre will support a growing and diverse population in Sydney’s central city and is a key part of the Powerhouse precinct. The Parramatta Arts and Cultural Precinct will introduce new experiences and public spaces along Parramatta’s river foreshore.

In late 2021, City of Parramatta Council voted to progress concept plans for the redevelopment of the Riverside Theatres using the $100 million it received from the government for the 2017 sale of a riverside car park for the museum’s western Sydney HQ.

It endorsed the development of a new 1,250-seat theatre capable of showing international musicals, a 340-seat multi-mode black box theatre space and a 60-seat development studio/screening room.

The existing Riverside Theatre will be rebirthed as the Riverside Playhouse, seating 650 to 700 people.

Riverside Theatres

The new museum when it opens in 2025 will be an exciting addition to Parramatta and help further cement the city’s reputation as an important regional hub. As the first state cultural institution to be built in Western Sydney, it has a major role to play in educating and entertaining people from across NSW and beyond.