The journey to establish a future home for the city’s cultural and civic facilities has moved significantly forward following Councillors’ endorsement of a plan to develop 23-31 Gordon Street into a new Library, Gallery, Council Chamber, office accommodation and Customer Service Centre.
It has long been accepted that the current Harry Bailey Memorial Library and Regional Gallery are too small and there has been long-standing community support for larger premises. In June 2016, the Gordon Street site was chosen after an investigation of 11 possible site locations within the City Centre Masterplan area. Council at that time also agreed to expand the planning for a new library and gallery to include a precinct analysis investigating additional mixed and civic use at the site.
This followed repeated calls for a cultural/civic centre from the community consultation that informed the development of the City Centre Masterplan 2031, Creative Coffs – Cultural Strategic Plan 2017-2022 and the Coffs Harbour City Library Strategic Plan 2012-2016.
More recently, support for cultural facilities within a precinct and a new civic building or ‘town hall’ was a key finding from the extensive public engagement during the development of the draft MyCoffs Community Strategic Plan. The Precinct Analysis has included advice from the Library Gallery Planning Advisory Group and City Centre Masterplan Committee.
The proposed development at 23-31 Gordon Street (the former Salvation Army building) would include:
- A central library;
- A regional gallery; and
- A customer service centre, Council Chambers and Council staff accommodation to provide an integrated civic and cultural facility.
It is envisaged that the Library spaces would include a welcoming children’s area, quiet, well-lit reading areas, study areas, more space for growing library collections, increased digital facilities and a youth gathering space/alcove with flexible informal furnishings.
The Gallery would have more room for exhibitions, workshop spaces for arts and crafts education, and showcase touring exhibitions on the ground floor to encourage visits. The layout would feature an open, inviting frontage to welcome people into the building, public art and sculpture outside and in the vicinity, Aboriginal elements in the interior and exterior design and a high-quality onsite café.
In addition there would be shared spaces – including one for up to 200 people – for meetings, co-working, makers space, seminars, training and events like writer’s or artist’s talks or small concerts, technology resources including a digital media studio and best practice access and facilities for people with disabilities and older people.
The next stage of the project will include consultation on concepts, financial estimates and feasibility – both on-going and lifecycle costing – as well as funding options and a recommended staging strategy.
Estimated forecasts suggest that the costs of the redevelopment would be about $35m. Identification of funding sources and a fundraising strategy (including sales or rental of Council’s existing building assets) will be included in a further report to be considered by Council.
Councillors also proposed to allocate $75,000 in next year’s budget for studies into future cultural development at City Hill.