Former Broadwater Hotel recommended as preferred site for RPACC

The former Broadwater Hotel site from Mann St in Gosford CBDThe former Broadwater Hotel site from Mann St in Gosford CBD

Central Coast Councillors were due to vote, on the evening of Wednesday, April 11, on whether or not to accept a staff recommendation to locate the Regional Performing Arts and Conference Centre at 51 to 71 Mann St.

The Mann Street property recommended by staff as the nominated site, is the former Broadwater Hotel, to the immediate north of the Gosford Chamber of Central Coast Council. The building is owned by Council, originally acquired by the former Gosford Council to be the location for the regional library. If Councillors voted in favour of the staff recommendation, they would require the Acting CEO to seek the consent of the Central Coast Conservatorium of Music to the development of the RPACC on the nominated site, and inform the NSW and Federal Government funding bodies of their decision. Following the March 12 ordinary Council meeting, consultants were engaged to assess six sites, the subject of resolutions from that meeting. “Those consultants were required to analyse those sites in the very limited time available before the April 16 deadline imposed by the NSW Government funding body,” a staff report to Council said.

“Those consultants have advised inter alia that each of those six alternate sites have constraints. “Due to those constraints and opportunities of each of the six alternative sites, it is recommended that site five, being the 51-71 Mann St, Gosford is the most suitable site for proposed RPACC. “In November, 2017, Council completed a revised brief for the proposed RPACC. “The brief was prepared with assistance from the Maytrix Group, and was designed to meet the needs of the broader community and to be economically viable. “The revised brief provided that the proposed RPACC would have: a 950-1000 seated auditorium with multipurpose retractable seating to accommodate performances, events, functions and conferences; a fly tower to enable theatrical productions and touring productions; an orchestra pit; a 200-250 seat studio for smaller performances, with a number of break out rooms to accommodate conferences; café/bar area; function room, smaller meeting rooms; large foyer, back of house, front of house facilities for performers and patrons; loading bay “If built on Leagues Club Field, the original brief was over two fl oors, where the RPACC area would be approximately 6,500 square metres. “An additional 1,000 square metres would be needed for the loading bay. “The base floor plate would be between 3,200 square metres to 4,000 square metres, depending on the site selected. “The preliminary designs, which have been prepared for each of six alternate sites … have all been designed in response to the brief prepared by the Maytix Group. “The proposed RPACC project is reliant on (already approved) external funding from both the State and Federal Governments. “The NSW Government made a pre-election commitment to the construction of the RPACC of $12m on March 28, 2015, which included $2m for the construction of an adjoining Conservatorium. “The former Gosford City Council (GCC) responded to the direct and indirect economic and community benefits of the RPACC proposal, and committed $10m to the RPACC project, as well as $635,000, as an in-kind contribution for the value of staff resources.

“The Central Coast Council may, but is not required to, honour those commitments by GCC. “Following those commitments, GCC applied for funding under the Federal Government’s Stronger Regions Funding, and on December 3, 2015, was successful in securing $10m from that Stronger Regions Fund. “The total project funds committed to design, construct and fit out the RPACC … are currently $30m plus $2m for an ‘adjoining Conservatorium’.” The estimated expenditure required to develop an RPACC on each of the sites was set out in confidential attachments and it was up to Councillors at the April 11 meeting to vote on whether or not those reports were to remain confidential. “The shortfall between current commitments and those estimated expenditures is between $26m to $42.5m,” the report to Council said. “Council is required to respond to the letter to the Acting CEO from the Executive Director, Cultural Infrastructure Program Arts and Culture Division of the NSW Department of Planning, by April 16. “If Council fails to comply with the requirements set out in that letter, then it is likely that the funding commitment from the NSW Government will be in jeopardy,” the staff report said. Until recently, the Central Coast Conservatorium (CCCM) had been prepared to relocate to new facilities that were to be part of the new RPACC. It then proposed a construction of its own $2m building on Crown Land located behind its present premises, which is the heritage Gosford Court House, on the corner of Mann St and Georgiana Tce. More recently, it has been lobbying to have the entire RPACC built on the Crown Land and Central Coast Council-owned land behind the heritage building. CCCM has recently been made the Reserve Trust Manager of the Crown Land parcel known as Lot 453 DP 727721, which is located at 45 Mann St, Gosford. “Both Gosford Council and this Council have consulted extensively with the Conservatorium, with numerous meetings held with the Mayor and Executive between 2015 and 2016,” the staff report said. “On February 6, 2017, Ms Claire Braund, from CCCM informed Council that: ‘The CCCM is seeking to obtain legal trusteeship over the site at 45 Mann St. “The CCCM Board of Management is seeking to redevelop and extend its facilities to better service the community needs and reflect its status as a Tier 1 musical learning and education facility for many hundreds of students and a growing schools program.

“This in no way removes us from our interest in and support of an RPACC. “We see the redevelopment of the CCCM as a complementary strategy in terms of ensuring the needs of performing arts and entertainment are met on the Coast. “We have requested a meeting with Mr Scot MacDonald to discuss taking the $2m promised for CCCM out of the general RPACC budget to fund stage 1 of this development, and are of the understanding that he is trying to fi nd a meeting date with us. “In order to be able to redevelop the site, we are requesting that Council make available a small adjoining portion of land on the top end of the site as indicated at our meeting. “This would square off the block and enable us to provide underground parking and appropriate disability access to what is a very steep site.’ “As a result of this correspondence, Council continued its planning for RPACC on the assumption that the Conservatorium would not be part of the building footprint. “On February 20, 2018, the Mayor, Director of Assets, Infrastructure and Business, and Director, Connected Communities, met with members of the CCCM Board, at which meeting, the Board advised that they would forward draft concepts and a business plan on the following week. “This was not received. “On March 2, 2018, the Acting Chief Executive Officer, Director of Assets, Infrastructure and Business, and Director, Connected Communities, met with members of the CCCM Board. “At that meeting, CCCM advised that it had prepared a design for the proposed RPACC on the site at 126 Georgiana Tce and 45 Mann St, Gosford … and would provide Council with details of that design by March 6.

“CCCM did not provide Council with that design. “On March 14, a Director of CCCM met with Council’s Acting CEO, indicating that CCCM’s architect was only willing to disclose the design that he had prepared for the proposed RPACC … provided Council staff executed an appropriate non-disclosure agreement. “Council’s Acting CEO agreed to meet with CCCM and its architect on March 29, when CCCM would confidentially provide details of its design for the proposed RPACC. “On March 22, Council provided CCCM’s architect with an executed non-disclosure agreement. “Less than 30 minutes prior to the scheduled meeting on March 29, CCCM cancelled the scheduled meeting. “On March 28, CCCM released details of its design for the proposed RPACC on Council’s site at 126 Georgiana Tce. “CCCM did not provide Council with details of that design until April 5.

Coast Community News understands the Conservatorium and Friends of the Performing Arts Precinct (FoPAP) were the only arts-related community organisations allowed to provide a private briefing to Central Coast Councillors on April 9. “Council has not had sufficient time to properly assess CCCM’s design for a proposed RPACC on 126 Georgiana Tce and 45 Mann St, Gosford. “Accordingly, Council has not included that design in its consideration of 126 Georgiana Tce and 45 Mann St, Gosford, as one of the alternate sites identified in Council’s resolutions. “Council staff will consult with CCCM concerning that design and the operational cost of that design. “Further consultation will commence once Council determines the preferred site for the proposed RPACC and a detailed design has been completed for the preferred site. “The proposed RPACC will provide a cultural hub for all ages, abilities and backgrounds, benefitting the whole of the community through participating and attending performances, events, functions and conferences at the venue.

“The venue will provide a quality community facility for the growing population of the Central Coast, addressing a gap in current provision for the region. “The RPACC will be a venue for local, regional and national standard performances and the development of talent, with being a stand out regional facility. “The flexible conference space will attract additional visitors to the area, due to a current lack of suitably sized venues across the region, and the close proximity to the business hubs of Sydney and Newcastle. “The venue will also have a positive impact on skill development, employment opportunities, tourism, cultural participation and the social connectedness of the Central Coast community. “Proposed project timelines have been completed to cover project initiation, scoping, planning and delivery. “It is proposed that construction for the RPACC will commence in January, 2019, with an 18 month build period. “The proposed opening of the facility would be expected in 2020. “The dates are indicative and do not include any significant delays due to the Development Application process or delays due to unforeseen circumstances in the construction phase.” Council staff did make some information available to the public prior to the meeting, including a geotechnical report, a tree report and a heritage report of three sites: Poppy Park, 126 Georgiana Tce and 51-71 Mann St. Geotechnical information was also released about the northeastern corner of Leagues Club Field on the cnr of Dane Dve and Vaughan Ave.

According to the Douglas Partners geotechnical report: “It has been advised that the proposed development will comprise a two-level basement carpark and excavation would be required to depths in the order of about 6-7 metres. “The construction would be a seven-storey RPACC building, with a five-storey podium, accommodating the parking on three basement levels, a café on the ground floor and a restaurant on the mezzanine level. “Two-floor levels above would also be allocated for function rooms and bar-dining activities. “The theatre … planned in elliptical floor plate over four storeys, with a bowl like building from above the rectilinear form of the podium. “The RPACC podium level would occupy the entire site area while the bowl like building form of the theatre and studios with be setback from Mann St frontage.” “Site three is the most suitable as it does not have any heritage listing and the anecdotal evidence for the potential surviving remnants of the old Royal Hotel have not been confirmed,” a heritage report concluded. City Plan Heritage concluded that Site 2 and Site 3 were considered suitable for the purpose of constructing the RPACC, although they have some level of constraints and issues associated with heritage aspects and steep topography. “Any future works within and adjoining the site of the Conservatorium should allow for the preparation of a Conservation Management strategy or plan, to guide the future conservation works and management of any change to the site,” the report said. The report on trees found that Poppy Park had 63 trees, and the highest number of retention value trees (29), the Conservatorium site had the fewest trees in total (14), but six high retention value trees, and the 51-71 Mann St site had 27 trees, but only one of high retention value. Geotechnical results from the Gosford Leagues Club field indicated that groundwater was encountered between 1 metre and 1.5 metres on that site. Coast Community News will report the outcomes of the Council meeting in its next edition.

Source: Agenda item 2.1, April 11 Central Coast Council extraordinary meeting

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Video footage from the council meeting here.

Central Coast Council’s post-meeting Media release

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