Over the past week the history and future of City Hill has been presented in three parts. This is the final installment in this story.
We also look at what is happening with the Gordon Street proposal at the end of this final part of Margaret’s story.
By Margaret Beckett
A newspaper item in 2012 has a picture of Mayor Knight with the report that she thinks City Hill was a great cultural site”. Sadly newcomers to Council changed all that.
Nevertheless supporters of City Hill had hope that private action may persuade Council that people believed The Hill is important.
In 2014 , Frances Blake hired a room at the Cex Club and placed an advert in the Monday paper for a meeting on Wednesday night . Even with so little notice about 30 people came.
So another meeting was advertised for the following Wed. This time double the number. A committee was formed to expand public awareness of the asset owned and dedicated to us for a Cultural Precinct.
However this moment in time was not in our favour.
Mass communication was now available to all. Council was armed with the full battery of the latest technology. Sadly those of us from the heady days of visionary leaders were not so well armed.
Nevertheless “we band of brothers and sisters” were inspired by outsiders. People had moved to Coffs from as far away as WA and the UK. They were amazed that nothing was being done with City Hill. Their technical expertise in cultural development left no doubt as to the tremendous asset we have.
We even had world class architects offering to provide advice pro bono. We had statements of intent and a date to commence. Then the ‘unknown power(s)’ stopped the momentum. Again.
There is too much at stake to allow unknown persons or groups to sabotage the plan. In time and with Council and citizens pulling together, we could have a cultural Centre of Excellence which we believe would be a reason in itself to visit Coffs Harbour .
City Hill, if developed as envisaged, has the potential to make our city a destination many would want to come to.
A place with so much to see and learn from that we could only grow into that “Queen City“ as envisaged by the men of inspiring vision as outlined in the earlier installments of this story.
Hope Springs Eternal
Editors note: The following story from The Coffs Coast Advocate in May 2017 covers many of the arguments put to Council back in 2017 about City Hill v Gordon Street as an area for the Coffs Harbour Culture Center:
“City Hill v Gordon St: Where’s best for arts precinct?
by K Elder
10th May 2017 11:05 AM 23
AHEAD of Thursday’s council meeting Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser urged councillors to consider City Hill as the best place for a cultural precinct.
Mr Fraser said City Hill was originally set out for this purpose and funds had been allocated by a previous council for this site to be developed as a cultural precinct.
“City Hill would give the opportunity not only for performing arts and visual arts, but also for any cultural activities and the precinct could be developed progressively as funds and the community need arose,” Mr Fraser said.
“City Hill is less than 1km from the city centre and could provide an opportunity for a hotel, which could accommodate anyone wishing to utilise the centre and at the same time provide a continuing income for the arts precinct, through a lease or commercial arrangement made with council.”
Mr Fraser also argued the site at City Hill had a strong historical relevance to Coffs Harbour, in relation to the Second World War bunker which now serves as the Bunker Cartoon Gallery.
In the council agenda for Thursday’s meeting, a recommendation has been put forward that councillors confirm a cultural and civic precinct at the 23-31 Gordon St site.
The recommendation includes scope for a new central library, regional gallery, customer service, council chambers and council staff office accommodation.
A mixed and civic use investigation offered three options which all included selling or renting Rigby House and upgrades expected to cost upwards of $35 million.
- Option 1: Upgrade to 23-31 Gordon St to include library, gallery, front counter/customer service and council chambers. Cost: about $18 million. Refurbishment of existing council administration building. Cost: about $2.7 million.
- Option 2: Upgrade to 23-31 Gordon St to include library, gallery, front counter/customer service and council chambers. As well as that, include built-to-order office accommodation (approximately 3200sqm) for mixed use tenants. Cost: about $35 million. Refurbishment of existing council administration building. Cost: about $2.7 million.
- Option 3: Upgrade to 23-31 Gordon St library, gallery, customer service and council chambers, and council staff office accommodation. Cost: about $35 million. Council administrative staff, currently at Rigby House, moves to 23-31 Gordon St.
Mr Fraser said such an upgrade in the CBD would likely create problems with parking, especially when events clashed with others at C.ex Coffs.
“I urge councillors to consider City Hill as the best alternative and to remind them that this land was originally sold to Coffs Harbour City Council, at a discount rate, with a view to utilising the area for arts and cultural activities,” he said.
So what is the situation now?
(1) The Council essentially disagreed with Mr Fraser and supporters of City Hill and voted for Options 2 and/or 3 as outlined above. There was no mention of new Council Administrative Chambers in any of the above options. $35m was the price for the new cultural center.
(2) In 2018 Council was persuaded to change this and vote for a new $75m Cultural Center plus new Administration-Council Chambers as part of the building. This is an increase of $40m, or approximately 47%, over the original proposed building for Gordon Street.
(3) It needs to be remembered that 23-31 Gordon Street was originally voted in 2012 to be sold as a plot of land. This motion was moved by then Cr Denise Knight, soon to become Mayor Knight, and seconded by then Cr Kerry Hines. This sale never happened to our knowledge. Outlook reported on this here: https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/in-2012-the-coffs-harbour-city-council-voted-to-dispose-of-21-31-gordon-street-huh/
(4) In order to part fund the new $75m Cultural Center/Chambers Rigby House was given an upgrade and it was hoped to be sold for $20m. As of today that sale has not occurred to our knowledge.
(5) It is now believed by many that the Coffs Harbour City Council is relying on the lease/privatisation of the airport and the associated ‘Technology Park’ land at the northern end of the airport to provide funding for the new $75m Gordon Street building.
However, Outlook understands that the tender process for the airport may not have gone to plan. Which leads to the following questions;
Is it true that no tenders for the airport were received by the recent tender close off date?
Is it also true the tender process has now been extended out until later this year?
Editors note, 19 June 2019: The following picture and sub-heading was sent as a comment by Max but can’t be reproduced in the comments section below the picture,