School of Arts building renewal

The refurbishment and extension project began in March 2016 and was completed in March 2017.  The building remains closed to the public whilst the Cairns Museum undertakes its fit-out, with an anticipated opening in mid-2017.

The building has been extended on the Shields Street side to provide two full floors plus a mezzanine level to be utilised by the Cairns Historical Society. This new museum space will be in addition to that which the organisation has tenanted since 1980, allowing the museum to expand significantly.

The upgrade also included:

  • new mechanical and electrical services that meet Australian standards;
  • replacement of the air-conditioning system;
  • restoration of the Art Deco awning and façade at the northern end of the Lake Street part of the building that is masked; and
  • an upgrade of the ground floor space for commercial use.

Project budget: $8.69 milion


The Cairns School of Arts was built in 1907 and is one of the oldest buildings in the city.

The Queensland Heritage Register-listed building is sited on a prime CBD location and is one of four heritage buildings on the corner of Lake and Shields streets. This combination creates one of the best intersections in the Cairns CBD, demonstrating 20th century cultural, hotel, residential and commercial uses.

The important School of Arts building demonstrates a range of aesthetic characteristics valued by the Cairns community, in particular its contribution to the streetscapes of Lake and Shields streets. It consists of four buildings, each constructed in a different historical era and that has been highlighted through the restoration process. The original building was built in 1907, with major extensions in 1932, 1939 and now in 2016.

Last updated: 18 April 2017