Now is the time to have your say before it is too late and we incur a massive financial liability and a facility which cannot grow with our city and population.
By Fran Stephenson
Currently before our Council is the approval of an updated regional art gallery, museum, library with the top floor being for Council Chambers and Admin Staff. Please note that the new proposed Council area is actually a smaller space than currently in use – so why do it?
I urge you as a community member and, most probably a ratepayer, to have a say in this project as it is the most important, expensive project our city will ever undertake involving a very large expenditure of $76.5m – a figure which will undoubtedly blow out.
We need to get it right or we pay the price in the future.
Where would we like this development to be?
The site currently favoured by Council is the Gordon Street site of the old Salvation Army building using the existing Vernon Street car park. As a former Vernon Street retailer of 20 years I listened to the continual complaints from my customers about difficulty in parking … it is worse now, and the proposed development will further exacerbate this.
In an Advocate story reporting a Council meeting in October 2010 when the Performing Arts Centre was on the table it was reported:
“Cr Denise Knight, who moved the motion to select City Hill and include the gallery, said the present art gallery was far too small and moving the gallery in with the entertainment centre would allow the library to spread out into the present art gallery space, saving money.”
When Cr. Degens suggested Gordon Street, Cr. Denise Knight, then Deputy Mayor, went on to say –
“Cr Knight said Cr Degens had a good point, but an entertainment centre with at least 650 seats needed plenty of parking.
Gordon Street is a lovely street, but not for an entertainment centre,” she said.
“Lower City Hill is an ideal site.” (This story was written by Belinda Scott and can still be found in the archives of the Advocate website.)
Why has Cr. Knight now changed her mind? We deserve an explanation I feel.
We can’t afford a Tourist Information Centre or curbing and guttering in many streets yet we will spend $76.5m+ on a non-income producing facility which will not give us anything new.
We look with envy at Port Macquarie’s Glasshouse which is linked to a Gowing’s Shopping Centre. Although this is a wonderful venue it does not provide parking other than inside the Gowings shopping centre and many surrounding small retailers closed down immediately after it was built. Tour/school buses cannot park near the Glasshouse or are they able to drop passengers at the door.
Are we now doing a ‘Port Macquarie’ and creating a cultural centre linked to a Gowings shopping centre?
I would like the community and Council to consider Lower City Hill as, IMHO it is the best possible site and is a site given to the people of Coffs Harbour by the Government ‘for cultural purposes’.
Those not familiar with Lower City Hill it is the greenfield site at the northern end of Hogbin Drive opposite the race course.
This 11 hectare site offers all that is needed to establish a very impressive cultural precinct which could give our city the opportunity to stand out above other regional centres and encourage increased tourism and add to our own enjoyment. It provides great access to all parts of our city and room to grow thus enabling facilities like:
Performing arts centre, art gallery, museum, tourist information centre or booth, garden cafe, restaurant, function/events/conference centre, outdoor amphi-theatre, parkland gardens, outdoor sculpture gallery, gift shop, cartoon walkway to link the National Cartoon Gallery etc. etc. Which could be carried out in a staged development.
City Hill has space for heaps of parking including that for delivery trucks and buses which the Gordon Street site does not offer. Where would a tour bus park in the CBD?
Lower City Hill has easy access from all parts of the city and people leaving the centre can disperse along three major roads basically in four directions. It is walkable from the CBD and has an existing bus service at the door. It has the highest possible visibility with thousands of cars passing the doors daily including visitors to our town via the airport.
City Hill is only 2 mins away from the CBD, Jetty Strip, Promenade, Jetty Theatre, schools, exisiting museum, airport, golf course etc. It has its own history and a story to tell plus with the right design could have stunning panoramic 360 degree views. It is in a bushland setting not in the heart of our already congested city centre.
Lower City Hill ticks all the boxes plus more.
Please do not sit back and be the silent majority and complain after it happens. Have your say now it is your city and this is an extremely important issue. Please talk to others and above all convey your feelings to Council before it’s too late and the decision is made for us.
If you do not agree with the points I have put forward please forgive me for contacting you on this important matter.
First published at Fran Stephenson’s Facebook page, Friday 19 July. See: https://www.facebook.com/fran.stephenson.7?fref=nf&__tn__=%2Cdm-R-R&eid=ARClPDn09NUDm6Imv0ZSfDWOZPUbhkvuW8UNocuaHUMOotxpPh6sHLNskoJtZxYTpk5imaGPXX072kJH
The Mayor has published an OpEd in today’s Coffs Coast Advocate on page 20 of the hard copy of the paper. It is reproduced below.
“From the Mayor’s Desk
By Cr Denise Knight
As we followed through on the City Centre Masterplan, Council found a potential site for the new library and gallery in 2016. The extensive Precinct Analysis undertaken at the time, including independent input, confirmed the City Centre as being the ‘Heart of the City’.
At that time, the community-based Library Gallery Planning Advisory Committee proposed that the new building also include Council accommodation. They proposed this because the current offices are at the end of their useful life and including Council facilities would add to the vibrancy of the new facility.
We didn’t just accept that and move forward. We then looked at a number of options for providing Council office accommodation at various existing locations. These were carefully evaluated and included in the preparation of the Cultural and Civic Space Concept Business Case. And including them at the Gordon Street site was the more efficient and effective solution. Other options for upgrading the current office facilities were evaluated – but they were found to cost more than what’s being proposed.
It also needs to be made clear that expanding the library into the existing art gallery space still only leaves us with a library that would be half the size that it should be for our population – according to the State Government’s own guidelines.
The City Centre Masterplan Committee endorsed the addition of Council offices and the revised project was adopted at the May 2017 Council Meeting. We have been moving forward since then.
At every critical step, the community has been consulted. Just as you were during the initial development of the City Centre Masterplan.
Now we find ourselves in 2019, when in May Council unveiled the schematic design for the proposed Cultural and Civic Space.
The design – which illustrates the co-location of library, gallery, museum, co-working and community meeting/gathering places and Council administration – was well received by the community members who left feedback.
It wasn’t just the design that was available for the public to see, funding for the project was made clear too.
Council developed a business case for the Cultural and Civic Space. Which indicated a total project cost estimated at $76.52m. This is a figure that is based on forecast 2022 costings because we took into account the continually rising cost of construction which again minimises any possible future cost blowouts.
This cost will be offset by $20m in asset sales – the sales of Rigby House, the current Council Chamber building, the Museum and buildings in Rose Avenue. The $20m estimate was provided by independent valuation. In addition to sales revenue, a further $10.5m from internal cost-saving reserves will be used.
Which brings the net cost of any possible borrowings required to $46.02m over 30 years. Currently, interest rates are at all-time lows and we can access rates fixed for 20 years at 2.6%.
Council is actively pursuing Federal and State grants to reduce the $46m borrowings.
It’s correct that Council does not have grants at the moment, but we will continue to apply as we do for the majority of our projects.
No, there won’t be a rate rise to pay for it. No, we’re not selling or leasing the airport to pay for it.
This Cultural and Civic Centre project is our opportunity to make a significant mark as a forward-looking city worthy of business and tourism investment – and that means more local jobs.
It’s time to start thinking about the future and what’s best for our young people and the whole community.”
Reproduced from page 20 the Coffs Coast Advocate Saturday 20 July 2019. Behind a paywall online at https://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/secrets-laid-bare-on-coffs-civic-centre/3783172/