School of Arts building renewal

Project update (as at 22 December 2016)

The refurbishment works will be completed in January 2017.

Most of the building wrap has been removed to reveal the refurbished building façade.

The Cairns Museum is set to reopen in mid-2017. For more information, please visit the Cairns Museum webpage.


The refurbishment project

Construction will start on the refurbishment project in March 2016.

The building will be 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 will also include:

  • 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.

Works have already been carried out to upgrade service connections such as water, sewerage, drainage, gas and electricity. The upgrade is scheduled for completion in early 2017.

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.

The building has had a number of alterations with a major extension in 1932 and 1939 and again in 1984, along with a major refurbishment. Now, after almost 30 years, while the building is structurally sound, it is at a stage where a complete renovation is required.

The building houses the Cairns Historical Society, which has occupied all of the first floor and operated the Cairns Museum since 1980. The museum is currently closed but it will reopen at this same location once major renovation and extension works are complete.

Last updated: 22 December 2016