Learning from Examples (Latest GM Column 8 September 2018)

5 years ago | by

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I recently visited Geelong with a group including the Mayor, Councillors and senior staff to take a look at the ongoing revitalisation of that city’s CBD through new cultural facilities and a major push to create a vibrant city centre through upgrades and activities.

Our aim was to gain a better understanding of the way Geelong has approached these projects while we are at the earlier stages of very similar initiatives. Essentially, as they’re ahead of us, we were interested in the lessons they’ve learned so far.

Geelong has a bigger population than Coffs, but there are many similarities with it also being a regional city in a coastal location.

Another major similarity is their new cultural centre in the CBD – the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, which is called ‘The Dome’ due to its iconic shape.

Designed to be both practical and attractive, it is purpose-built to enable the range of uses required by library-users in this day and age. As well as the digital and print collections, the building houses an event space, an 80-seat café with an outdoor deck area, an entire floor dedicated to children and young people, high-end digital technology and high speed internet access, a Heritage Centre and reading room, eight meeting rooms available for community groups and corporate hire and an exhibition space curated by the Geelong Gallery.

As well as providing a cultural centre for the city, visitors and locals, another aim for The Dome is to help generate new jobs and grow the local economy over time by being a hub for creative industries.

At the same time, Geelong has embarked on an innovative and extensive laneway activation programme – similar to that contained in our own CBD Masterplan – that includes creating attractive pedestrian routes through the area, making features of trees and planting, new street furniture, lighting and events. In addition, local youth and emerging artists have played a large part in reclaiming the laneways through street art.

As you can probably tell, Geelong and Coffs Harbour have many things in common and it was a very worthwhile visit. Being able to see these facilities in operation and being able to speak to the people involved, learn about the collaborative approach behind the projects – as well as talk to those working in them already – we went away with a far better understanding of how to assist in making the CBD transformation a success.

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