Let's make the most of the CBD

Let's make the most of the CBD

Published 14 November 2014, The Courier, Ballarat

We need white collar jobs in our CBD to boost our economy and inject vibrancy into the heart of our city.
Our State politicians are listening. We welcome recent announcements from both sides of politics that will create jobs and stimulate our regional economy.
Now it’s up to us.
As a community we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revitalise our wonderful city through major projects such as the development of the Civic Hall site and the revamp of the Ballarat Station Precinct.
It’s important that we understand the unquestionable heritage value of our collective cultural assets across the whole CBD precinct so that we can maximise the potential of them all.
The Civic Hall site has become a topical hotspot. But the critical points about why the site is so important are being lost and the debate around ‘should we pull it down or re-use it?’ continues to paralyse the decision making process.
To be a sustainable community asset the site needs to a have sustainable business model behind it. That is, it needs to develop as a collaboration of private and public enterprise that will pay for itself and not be an additional drain on the Ballarat ratepayers’ purse. To do so doesn’t have to be at the expense of a vibrant community space.
Imagine a precinct in the heart of our city that combines bustling business and commercial activity and a vibrant café and restaurant scene with wonderful public open spaces where our community can gather, celebrate and recreate.
We don’t have to look far to see a great example. Fed Square is not only a wonderful community gathering place, it is also an economic driver for Melbourne.

To our state politicians…
We welcome the election pledge by the Coalition Government to relocate a major government agency to Ballarat. The relocation of VicRoads to the Civic Hall site will mean 600 new and permanent jobs for our region and $60 million in economic flow-on into the CBD each year. And we acknowledge the Coalition’s pledge of $5.1 million to improve commuter facilities at the Station Precinct.
We also welcome the election pledge by the State Opposition of $25 million to revamp the Station Precinct. This commitment by Labor supports the master plan developed by Council and features fixing up the derelict bluestone goods shed and turning it into a 3,000 square metre convention centre and exhibition space, leading to 140 new jobs. There is also the potential for a 4-star hotel to be built on the site.
Committee for Ballarat will continue to call for bipartisan support for critical projects that will create jobs in the centre of Ballarat. As a community we can’t shut our eyes to these outstanding opportunities.

To our locally elected representatives…
We have a large underutilised piece of land in the centre of the CBD. We need to maximise the full potential of the Civic Hall site.
We are calling on you to show strong and visionary leadership and have the conviction to make a decision that will build a great future for our community.

To our community…
We can’t look at the Civic Hall site in isolation from the wider precinct. As you participate in the Community Design Process we urge you to keep in mind the bigger picture of our existing community-funded entertainment spaces.
We already have a number of outstanding community cultural heritage facilities in the heart of our CBD: the Art Gallery of Ballarat, the Mining Exchange, Her Majesty’s Theatre and the recently refurbished Mechanics Institute. All of these are within an easy 10 minute walk of the Civic Hall site.
At the same time, we have bipartisan support for the new convention and exhibition space at the Station Precinct so, no matter what the state election result is, we will have another great heritage cultural facility in the CBD.
Committee for Ballarat is on the public record to support a full demolition as our preferred option for the Civic Hall site based on a survey conducted with our members. However being paralysed by the “should we pull it down or leave it?” debate leaves our community in limbo.
As a city we are at risk of being defined by our lack of decision making and action around this issue and Council is currently going through yet another community consultation process for which the results won’t be known for some time.
Let’s move on from the old debate. Let’s be creative. Let’s seek the best ideas and learn from the best examples.
Let’s bring together the mix of public and private stakeholders that can make this work.
And let’s make it happen.