Bellingen Memorial Hall

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The Bellingen Memorial Hall is as iconic today as the day it was opened in 1929.

Bellingen Memorial Hall Transformation Project

Latest News

A major milestone has been achieved with the approval on 15 April 2021 of the Development Application (DA) for the designs for the transformation of the Bellingen Memorial Hall.

There has been a significant amount of behind-the-scenes work happening on detailed designs which incorporate the required car parking and consultation with key users of the facility.

Now the DA is approved, the final project costing estimate and full project review can be conducted to ensure the project is on budget and ready to have final construction diagrams completed and tendered to the market. Any required adjustments to the design will be made following this review.

Tender documentation for the construction is underway with tenders expected to be called and a successful tenderer appointed in the next 2 months.

All going well construction is planned to commence in June/July 2021 and is estimated to take around 9 months to 12 months for full completion.

For access to the designs approved in the DA, please view the designs located in the Document Tab on the top right hand side of this screen.

Project Phases – What’s been done so far

March 2018

Structural assessment of main hall timber supports and review of general repairs needed. This investigation found significant works required for the structural support to the main hall structure. The need for this work means it will be completed as one of the first phases of the construction work for the overall project.


April 2018

Applied for Heritage Grant, successfully awarded September 2018. Works: completion of Heritage project in upstairs area of the hall to restore heritage aspects such as the Soldiers window and convert space into office areas and a community meeting room. Works completed in June 2019.


May 2018

Applied to Stronger Country Communities fund and were successful in gaining a grant (awarded February 2019) for structural aspects, and refurbishment works.


July 2018

Operational review of the hall, its variety of uses and user requirements based on consultation with the user groups.


September 2018

Application to the Regional Cultural Fund - Create NSW (awarded in December 2018) for transformation of the Hall into an arts and cultural hub by redesigning and upgrading existing facilities and building new spaces - based on original concept design by architect Steve Gorrell. Designs incorporated information from user requirements consultation.


January 2019

Councillor workshop on the project and designs


February- May 2019

Further work done by local architect Steve Gorrell on concept design without car park overall design.

March 2019

Investigation and research with other Councils with similar projects to gather information on lessons learned in facility design, construction and subsequent use.


June 2019

Councillor workshop on the draft concept project and designs.

June 2019

Community open days held on the draft concept designs to gain further feedback in preparation for the detailed design phase.


July 2019

Council resolution of concept designs and progression to request for tender for detailed design.


August -September 2019

Tender process for more detailed design development approval, and construction documents.


November 2019

Commissioned and received report on heritage items of significance within the hall.


November 2019

Council resolved, based on a tender report recommendation, to appoint Sibling Architecture for detailed design process and DA and construction documentation including car parking as part of the overall concept design review.


December 2019-March 2020

Three new concept designs developed by Sibling Architecture that included carparking aspect of the project.


March-June 2020

Consultation on the new concept designs and design reviews based on feedback.


N.B: Covid 19 saw a delay in project progression to a degree given the restrictions on gathering and movement during that time requiring focus on other priorities such as service adaptation to deal with the impacts of the pandemic on council services and facilities operation.

July 2020

Two draft design options including car parking presented to Council and a finance strategy. A Concept design and associated funding was resolved by Council based on this report. To view the full Council Report, simply click here and to view the adopted Concept Design click here and to view the carpark design click here.


August -December 2020

Detailed design progressed based on the approved concept design as preparation for a Development Application (DA) inclusive of more key user group consultation.


December 2020

Development Application submitted.


January -February 2021

Bellingen Memorial Hall closed to the public in preparation for works and to allow the volunteer Hall Management Committee to conduct an inventory and remove items to storage, and for more detailed assessments of works required on the structural component of the Hall.

15 April 2021

Development Application approved and consent issued approving in the most part the detailed design as submitted. Heritage considerations of colour schemes to be further investigated through the utilisation of paint scrapes down to original colours.


Next steps


  1. Full project review and total project cost review prior to the final price estimate on the detailed design.
  2. Final pricing estimate on final design
  3. Review of final design dependant on results of final pricing estimate.
  4. Final construction diagrams completed ready for tender.
  5. Construction certificate applied for and issued.
  6. Tender documentation prepared and finalised based on DA conditions.
  7. Tender called for construction as per detailed design and construction diagrams
  8. Construction tender awarded.
  9. Construction commenced in stages.
  10. Construction completed.
  11. Occupation certificate issued.
  12. Opening of the transformed facility

Background

The Bellingen Memorial Hall has been one of the foundational ‘homes’ of the community and its culture. Plans were initiated in 1918 and the building opened on Anzac Day 1929 as a memorial to those who served in World War 1.

Operationally, the Bellingen Memorial Hall is managed by community volunteers (under Section 355 of the NSW Local Government Act 1993) as a delegated authority of the Bellingen Shire Council.

The Hall has evolved with the needs of the community that has seen it function as a movie theatre, library, community hall and performance centre and provide facilities for dances, shows, movies, theatre, orchestras and numerous other community events. It is this vibrant and long history which has led to the existing Hall building being Heritage listed.

Over this 90-year history, the hall has also been subject to a number of renovations and upgrades. However, for the past 10 years, and until recently, some grant applications have been unsuccessful and only minor or critical maintenance (roof repairs) has been possible through the limited funding that has been successful.

As a result, there has been a reasonable backlog of works to be completed, including addressing the heritage significance of the hall.

After several grant applications over many years, Council was finally successful with 3 separate applications made in 2018 and awarded in either late 2018 or early 2019.

In late 2018, Council was successful with two grant applications for the Hall:

• Restoring heritage aspects of upstairs area at the front of the Hall, in particular the stain glassed soldiers window, and conversion of space for use as offices (Heritage Grant $92,243). This work named Phase 1, commenced in March 2019 and was completed in July 2019.

• Undertaking both repair and new structural works required for the main hall (Stronger Country Communities fund $335,151).

Just prior to these grants being advised, Council also initiated an operational review on the Hall as a precursor to forming a Strategic Plan for the centre, the results of which were completed just prior to the Regional Cultural Fund Grant being released.

These results identified that whilst there was good usage of the hall with a number of major events and festivals, local community events were steadily declining in number. This, coupled with rising operational and maintenance needs, implied the centre was at risk of losing its cultural significance and relevance to the community.

This revelation started a dialogue about the ongoing and future role of the Memorial Hall for the community, informing the resulting vision and strategy for a ‘transformation’ of the centre.

Vision

In summary, the vision of the initiative was to transform the centre from a ‘Memorial Hall’ to a ‘Cultural Arts HUB’, fostering collaboration, community and creativity by:

· Upgrading existing, and building new spaces that welcome new and diverse performances, performers, arts and workshops to the Shire

· Providing a renewed facility that inspires new collaboration and artistic creativity within the community

· Fostering and nurturing a healthy community culture through supporting various arts and cultural initiatives

Further funding

This vision was the foundation of the Regional Cultural Fund grant application, named the ‘Hall to Hub Arts Evolution’ which was successful, and the Bellingen Shire Council was awarded $3,303,000 to implement the project to the value of $4.04m.

Heritage-National Trust Register

On 22 July 2020, Council received a letter from the National Trust to advise that the Bellingen Soldiers Memorial Hall has been listed by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) on the Trust Register.

The Register lists those buildings, sites, areas and items which, in the Trust’s opinion, fall within the following definition:

“Those places which are components of the natural or the cultural environment of Australia, that have aesthetic, historical, architectural, archaeological, scientific or social significance or other special value for the future generations, as well as for the present community”.

This formal acknowledgment of the significance of the Bellingen Memorial Hall as a soldiers memorial has been forwarded to the Project Heritage Consultant and the Council Heritage Consultant to be considered in the project. It will also enable council to make future applications to an expanded number of funding providers in the areas of heritage, infrastructure and culture.

Designs, Engagement and Governance

Prior to submitting the grant applications, council worked with the Memorial Hall Committee and key users of the hall to develop a draft concept design that would meet the Vision for the project. This was completed as a collaborative exercise which allowed the progression of the funding applications. This was the Initial Engagement Stage which led to the initial Concept Designs being developed.

As council are the body ultimately responsible for the funding, and the Memorial Hall, relevant governance structures were implemented within council and the Project Management Team (PMT) developed a detailed project plan along with communications plans and other governance documents. The PMT worked closely with the Memorial Hall Committee and have undertaken targeted engagement with key user groups to understand their requirements.

Following the finalisation of this engagement, the PMT worked with the Hall Committee and a local architect to review and update the original draft concept designs utilising the feedback from the key user requirements engagement and advice from subject matter experts. This review and update of the initial concept designs led to revised concept designs which were utilised in an open community consultation session in June 2019.

In November 2019 Council conducted a tender process to secure a Detailed Design and progress the project to Development Application (DA) and Construction Certificate (CC) stage and appointed Sibling Architecture as the preferred design firm

The scope of works for this tender was for the Detailed Design and Construction Documentation of:

- the refurbishment of the existing Memorial Hall

- the extension of Memorial Hall

- the carpark behind Memorial Hall

This to be achieved in accordance with the project objectives that:

● the Hall capability and capacity be brought to a level that will serve the needs of the community for years into the future

● its new facilities attract new performers and performances into the Shire

● it supports and fosters community engagement and collaboration, creativity and connection

● the centre remains grounded, open and available to all the community

Progress

Along this journey, the Project Management Team, Sibling Architecture and various key stakeholders have been working closely on various iterations of the concept design, balancing as best as possible, budgetary constraints, user requirements, performance experience, audience experience, user accessibility and aligning these with the original vision for the transformation project.

This resulted in a process of iterative design concepts, consultation with key users, assessment by professional service providers and consultants (including BCA (Building Code of Australia), fire, egress and access, accessibility, civil, structural, traffic and electrical engineering, heritage and audio visual) and monitoring through Quantity Surveys (QS) assessments for proposed costings of the project.

During this process existing issues with the main hall were identified and addressed in the design and project, including asbestos management, structural issues, existing electrical installation (requiring a full replacement) along with the identification of the requirement for a full fire protection upgrade.

This process of design reviews and engagement resulted in a final concept design to be used to progress to the detailed design and development application phase.

Community Involvement and Engagement

As mentioned above, the key users and s355 Management Committee have been on this journey with the Project Management Team from the project inception. In summary the following engagement has taken place to date:

Key User Groups

  • Requirements Gathering – series of workshops with key user groups to determine requirements – ultimately forming the design brief
  • Subject Matter Experts on Issues and Opportunity -Workshops
  • Community Consultations or Open house feedback
  • Concept Design Reviews or Design Feedback Sessions

Those Involved included:

Key Stakeholders

  • Section 355 Management Committee
  • Bellingen Shire Council
  • Key Community Groups (E.g. Chamber of Commerce) Major Users
  • Bellingen Winter Music Festival
  • Readers and Writers Festival
  • Bellingen Fine Music/Community Arts
  • Bellingen Youth Orchestra
  • Rivers Dance
  • Screenwave
  • Camp Creative,
  • Playback Theatre

Subject Matter Experts

  • Sound, Acoustic and Production Engineers
  • Event Promoters, Set Designers
  • Community Radio (2BBB)
  • Musicians and Artists

In addition, consultation was undertaken with neighbours to the Memorial Hall in relation to both the transformation project and the carpark.

Carpark

A requirement of the Development Application for the Memorial Hall is an allocation/development of a certain number of car parks for that facility to service the Hall activities based on the floor area of the Hall.

As this land associated with the Memorial hall has already been identified in the Bellingen Shire Council Town Centre Parking Strategy (Parking Strategy) adopted by council in February 2019, as being an area that should be investigated for opportunities to increase the parking supply for the town of Bellingen, the Memorial Hall transformation project provides a unique potential to maximise on this opportunity.

Council nominated $700,000 of the total project and grant funding toward the redevelopment of the existing carpark, which currently supplies approximately 60 car parking spaces for the community and Hall users.

With the opportunity now to accelerate the focus on the carpark as a requirement of the DA, and in concert with the recommendations of the Parking Strategy adopted by council in February 2019, the proposed Final Concept plans address the carparking area in respect to the following:

● Expansion of the current carparking capability from approximately 60 to approximately 100 spaces ● Inclusion of two Disability access parks with direct access to the lift entrance of the facility

● Continues with and provides more efficient access to neighbouring properties

● Provides a loading dock for Hall use and for neighbouring property use

● Remodelling of Creek Lane to provide more user friendly and safer access and carriageway for all users

● Improved access and amenity to the current pedestrian link to Hyde Street

● Inclusion of power cabling for intended electric vehicle charging points

The carpark design entails full resurfacing, levelling, storm water management, retaining walls, ramps, resurfacing, line marking, lighting, landscaping, kerb and gutter and wheel stoppers. Offset planting will be considered onsite and offsite with endemic and native species in line with comprehensive advice obtained from a qualified arborist. The large red cedar tree near the bottle shop will be maintained as a tree of significance.

This carpark design has been costed at $1.3m through a Quantity Surveyor (QS) costing. The current project budget entails a contribution from the project to the carpark of $700,000. Council is to fund the additional $600,000 required to provide this carpark upgrade, resulting in not only a safer and more amenable area, but an additional 40 (approximately) carparks for use by Memorial Hall patrons and the community generally.

This is approximately a 66% increase on the number of carparks currently provided in this area, allowing this project to bring additional benefits to the community outside the Hall transformation project itself.

Further Design considerations

The original Concept Design submitted with the Grant Application was informed from the extensive requirements that were gathered in numerous workshops conducted with the key user groups. These groups on the whole represented the major festivals and events, and the majority of regular users of the hall, and included various event, performance and usage types, in addition to subject matter experts such as sound and acoustic engineers.

However, given the timing constraints of the grant process, there were a number of key areas of the requirements and design that were known to have limitations and were required to be revisited in the subsequent design iterations. These included accessibility and flow challenges, limited car park design, acoustic isolation concerns and limited engineering works assessment.

Sibling architects reviewed these requirements, and with the benefit of additional time, were able to not only address these outstanding issues, but to revise the original concept designs and offer significantly more innovation, scope and options. They did this over a number of iterations, many of which were able to be reviewed by the key user groups to assess their relative merit.

Some of these variations included:

● Significant redesign of the front of the house to activate and increase the size of the foyer, maximise the space with the relocation and increase of the toilet facilities and provide better flow and access to the main hall

● Better raking of new seats with improved line of sight to the stage

● Multiple car park designs, some including multi-level capacity

● Opening of the current walkway to be an activated and integrated part of the design

● Increased Back of House facilities including multi-functional green rooms

● Multiple integrating deck and kitchenette options

● Accessibility and flow issues

In fact, at the peak of the creative process, one of the most exciting design iterations included an integrated multilevel car park and incorporated an outdoor stage and large deck area.

However, the design process is a balancing act between user requirements, aspirations, budget, costs, heritage guidelines, building codes compliance and engineering constraints; and many of the areas that required more detailed analysis had a significant impact on the budget.

One of these areas was the car park design, with the current DA requirements for the new design requiring an additional 40 (approximately) car spaces to be included (1 car park per 100sqm), and thus an extension of the car park scope. Whilst this will add tremendous value to the Memorial Hall and the community as a whole, it did increase the scope of the project.

So, after many iterations the final recommended approach is a design that:

● meets the aspirations of the vision for HUB and the grant application

● meets the current needs of the community and the upgrade needs of the hall

● provides the right mix of potential, re-use and adaptability to promote and enable new opportunities, performances and capability for the Shire - well into the future

Detailed Design

The detailed design phase focussed on the fit-out, operability and included consideration of delivery such as:

· Finalising external material specifications, informed by BCA requirements including fire compliance. Colour and finish of materials will be informed by heritage consultant advice.

· Interior design development, including material and finish specifications. Works to the Foyer and Hall will consider the existing heritage fabric of the building as well as the proposed uses of these spaces. Materials will consider acoustic requirements of the spaces and be durable to support the highly trafficked nature of a public building.

· Selection of internal fittings, fixtures and equipment appropriate for the use of the building

· Finalising services systems including mechanical ventilation systems, electrical and hydraulic systems

· Finalising structural design and details, including repair works to the Hall

· Audio Visual upgrades and specifications

· External landscape design

Funding Strategy

The project is proposed to be funded with via a mixture of grant funding, general revenue and loan funding as detailed in the table below: Councils current adopted Long Term Financial Plan estimated total project costs of $4.13M. The final detailed designs costings require an additional budget variation of $1.596M in order to fund the preferred design.option.

Funding source

Amount

Regional Cultural fund grant

$3,300,000

Stronger Country Communities grant

$335,151

Council contribution

$500,000

Loan-Council

$1,596,331

Council has been prudent in the use of borrowings, traditionally holding very low levels of debt. The best indicator of this is measured by the Debt Service Coverage Ratio. The Debt Service Cover Ratio is used to measure the availability of operating cash to service debt including interest and principal payments.

It also shows the commitment of future revenue necessary to fund long term obligations. Council’s current Long Term Financial Plan shows an average of $6.20 in available operating cash for every $1 of loan required to be paid, this is a very healthy position, well above the minimum benchmark of $1.50 as set by the Office Local Government

The loan amount proposed includes contingencies and is based on QS estimates. It is intended that through cost containment strategies and rigorous project management, along with the ongoing focus on securing additional grants (some which will now be available through the recent National Trust Heritage Listing), the total amount that may need to be borrowed could be reduced and every endeavour will be made in this regard.

In terms of funding this project, it is important to acknowledge that this project will create a facility that will be used by future generations. To ensure intergenerational equity, the use of borrowing costs is a sound strategy i.e. future generations are paying towards the cost of construction of the facility.

To facilitate the annual internal loan repayments, council will continue on its journey of reviewing its business operations and services to the community, as it has over past years. Council will look to find savings in other programs and services in order to facilitate the adjustment to the Long Term Financial Plan.

Bellingen Memorial Hall Transformation Project

Latest News

A major milestone has been achieved with the approval on 15 April 2021 of the Development Application (DA) for the designs for the transformation of the Bellingen Memorial Hall.

There has been a significant amount of behind-the-scenes work happening on detailed designs which incorporate the required car parking and consultation with key users of the facility.

Now the DA is approved, the final project costing estimate and full project review can be conducted to ensure the project is on budget and ready to have final construction diagrams completed and tendered to the market. Any required adjustments to the design will be made following this review.

Tender documentation for the construction is underway with tenders expected to be called and a successful tenderer appointed in the next 2 months.

All going well construction is planned to commence in June/July 2021 and is estimated to take around 9 months to 12 months for full completion.

For access to the designs approved in the DA, please view the designs located in the Document Tab on the top right hand side of this screen.

Project Phases – What’s been done so far

March 2018

Structural assessment of main hall timber supports and review of general repairs needed. This investigation found significant works required for the structural support to the main hall structure. The need for this work means it will be completed as one of the first phases of the construction work for the overall project.


April 2018

Applied for Heritage Grant, successfully awarded September 2018. Works: completion of Heritage project in upstairs area of the hall to restore heritage aspects such as the Soldiers window and convert space into office areas and a community meeting room. Works completed in June 2019.


May 2018

Applied to Stronger Country Communities fund and were successful in gaining a grant (awarded February 2019) for structural aspects, and refurbishment works.


July 2018

Operational review of the hall, its variety of uses and user requirements based on consultation with the user groups.


September 2018

Application to the Regional Cultural Fund - Create NSW (awarded in December 2018) for transformation of the Hall into an arts and cultural hub by redesigning and upgrading existing facilities and building new spaces - based on original concept design by architect Steve Gorrell. Designs incorporated information from user requirements consultation.


January 2019

Councillor workshop on the project and designs


February- May 2019

Further work done by local architect Steve Gorrell on concept design without car park overall design.

March 2019

Investigation and research with other Councils with similar projects to gather information on lessons learned in facility design, construction and subsequent use.


June 2019

Councillor workshop on the draft concept project and designs.

June 2019

Community open days held on the draft concept designs to gain further feedback in preparation for the detailed design phase.


July 2019

Council resolution of concept designs and progression to request for tender for detailed design.


August -September 2019

Tender process for more detailed design development approval, and construction documents.


November 2019

Commissioned and received report on heritage items of significance within the hall.


November 2019

Council resolved, based on a tender report recommendation, to appoint Sibling Architecture for detailed design process and DA and construction documentation including car parking as part of the overall concept design review.


December 2019-March 2020

Three new concept designs developed by Sibling Architecture that included carparking aspect of the project.


March-June 2020

Consultation on the new concept designs and design reviews based on feedback.


N.B: Covid 19 saw a delay in project progression to a degree given the restrictions on gathering and movement during that time requiring focus on other priorities such as service adaptation to deal with the impacts of the pandemic on council services and facilities operation.

July 2020

Two draft design options including car parking presented to Council and a finance strategy. A Concept design and associated funding was resolved by Council based on this report. To view the full Council Report, simply click here and to view the adopted Concept Design click here and to view the carpark design click here.


August -December 2020

Detailed design progressed based on the approved concept design as preparation for a Development Application (DA) inclusive of more key user group consultation.


December 2020

Development Application submitted.


January -February 2021

Bellingen Memorial Hall closed to the public in preparation for works and to allow the volunteer Hall Management Committee to conduct an inventory and remove items to storage, and for more detailed assessments of works required on the structural component of the Hall.

15 April 2021

Development Application approved and consent issued approving in the most part the detailed design as submitted. Heritage considerations of colour schemes to be further investigated through the utilisation of paint scrapes down to original colours.


Next steps


  1. Full project review and total project cost review prior to the final price estimate on the detailed design.
  2. Final pricing estimate on final design
  3. Review of final design dependant on results of final pricing estimate.
  4. Final construction diagrams completed ready for tender.
  5. Construction certificate applied for and issued.
  6. Tender documentation prepared and finalised based on DA conditions.
  7. Tender called for construction as per detailed design and construction diagrams
  8. Construction tender awarded.
  9. Construction commenced in stages.
  10. Construction completed.
  11. Occupation certificate issued.
  12. Opening of the transformed facility

Background

The Bellingen Memorial Hall has been one of the foundational ‘homes’ of the community and its culture. Plans were initiated in 1918 and the building opened on Anzac Day 1929 as a memorial to those who served in World War 1.

Operationally, the Bellingen Memorial Hall is managed by community volunteers (under Section 355 of the NSW Local Government Act 1993) as a delegated authority of the Bellingen Shire Council.

The Hall has evolved with the needs of the community that has seen it function as a movie theatre, library, community hall and performance centre and provide facilities for dances, shows, movies, theatre, orchestras and numerous other community events. It is this vibrant and long history which has led to the existing Hall building being Heritage listed.

Over this 90-year history, the hall has also been subject to a number of renovations and upgrades. However, for the past 10 years, and until recently, some grant applications have been unsuccessful and only minor or critical maintenance (roof repairs) has been possible through the limited funding that has been successful.

As a result, there has been a reasonable backlog of works to be completed, including addressing the heritage significance of the hall.

After several grant applications over many years, Council was finally successful with 3 separate applications made in 2018 and awarded in either late 2018 or early 2019.

In late 2018, Council was successful with two grant applications for the Hall:

• Restoring heritage aspects of upstairs area at the front of the Hall, in particular the stain glassed soldiers window, and conversion of space for use as offices (Heritage Grant $92,243). This work named Phase 1, commenced in March 2019 and was completed in July 2019.

• Undertaking both repair and new structural works required for the main hall (Stronger Country Communities fund $335,151).

Just prior to these grants being advised, Council also initiated an operational review on the Hall as a precursor to forming a Strategic Plan for the centre, the results of which were completed just prior to the Regional Cultural Fund Grant being released.

These results identified that whilst there was good usage of the hall with a number of major events and festivals, local community events were steadily declining in number. This, coupled with rising operational and maintenance needs, implied the centre was at risk of losing its cultural significance and relevance to the community.

This revelation started a dialogue about the ongoing and future role of the Memorial Hall for the community, informing the resulting vision and strategy for a ‘transformation’ of the centre.

Vision

In summary, the vision of the initiative was to transform the centre from a ‘Memorial Hall’ to a ‘Cultural Arts HUB’, fostering collaboration, community and creativity by:

· Upgrading existing, and building new spaces that welcome new and diverse performances, performers, arts and workshops to the Shire

· Providing a renewed facility that inspires new collaboration and artistic creativity within the community

· Fostering and nurturing a healthy community culture through supporting various arts and cultural initiatives

Further funding

This vision was the foundation of the Regional Cultural Fund grant application, named the ‘Hall to Hub Arts Evolution’ which was successful, and the Bellingen Shire Council was awarded $3,303,000 to implement the project to the value of $4.04m.

Heritage-National Trust Register

On 22 July 2020, Council received a letter from the National Trust to advise that the Bellingen Soldiers Memorial Hall has been listed by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) on the Trust Register.

The Register lists those buildings, sites, areas and items which, in the Trust’s opinion, fall within the following definition:

“Those places which are components of the natural or the cultural environment of Australia, that have aesthetic, historical, architectural, archaeological, scientific or social significance or other special value for the future generations, as well as for the present community”.

This formal acknowledgment of the significance of the Bellingen Memorial Hall as a soldiers memorial has been forwarded to the Project Heritage Consultant and the Council Heritage Consultant to be considered in the project. It will also enable council to make future applications to an expanded number of funding providers in the areas of heritage, infrastructure and culture.

Designs, Engagement and Governance

Prior to submitting the grant applications, council worked with the Memorial Hall Committee and key users of the hall to develop a draft concept design that would meet the Vision for the project. This was completed as a collaborative exercise which allowed the progression of the funding applications. This was the Initial Engagement Stage which led to the initial Concept Designs being developed.

As council are the body ultimately responsible for the funding, and the Memorial Hall, relevant governance structures were implemented within council and the Project Management Team (PMT) developed a detailed project plan along with communications plans and other governance documents. The PMT worked closely with the Memorial Hall Committee and have undertaken targeted engagement with key user groups to understand their requirements.

Following the finalisation of this engagement, the PMT worked with the Hall Committee and a local architect to review and update the original draft concept designs utilising the feedback from the key user requirements engagement and advice from subject matter experts. This review and update of the initial concept designs led to revised concept designs which were utilised in an open community consultation session in June 2019.

In November 2019 Council conducted a tender process to secure a Detailed Design and progress the project to Development Application (DA) and Construction Certificate (CC) stage and appointed Sibling Architecture as the preferred design firm

The scope of works for this tender was for the Detailed Design and Construction Documentation of:

- the refurbishment of the existing Memorial Hall

- the extension of Memorial Hall

- the carpark behind Memorial Hall

This to be achieved in accordance with the project objectives that:

● the Hall capability and capacity be brought to a level that will serve the needs of the community for years into the future

● its new facilities attract new performers and performances into the Shire

● it supports and fosters community engagement and collaboration, creativity and connection

● the centre remains grounded, open and available to all the community

Progress

Along this journey, the Project Management Team, Sibling Architecture and various key stakeholders have been working closely on various iterations of the concept design, balancing as best as possible, budgetary constraints, user requirements, performance experience, audience experience, user accessibility and aligning these with the original vision for the transformation project.

This resulted in a process of iterative design concepts, consultation with key users, assessment by professional service providers and consultants (including BCA (Building Code of Australia), fire, egress and access, accessibility, civil, structural, traffic and electrical engineering, heritage and audio visual) and monitoring through Quantity Surveys (QS) assessments for proposed costings of the project.

During this process existing issues with the main hall were identified and addressed in the design and project, including asbestos management, structural issues, existing electrical installation (requiring a full replacement) along with the identification of the requirement for a full fire protection upgrade.

This process of design reviews and engagement resulted in a final concept design to be used to progress to the detailed design and development application phase.

Community Involvement and Engagement

As mentioned above, the key users and s355 Management Committee have been on this journey with the Project Management Team from the project inception. In summary the following engagement has taken place to date:

Key User Groups

  • Requirements Gathering – series of workshops with key user groups to determine requirements – ultimately forming the design brief
  • Subject Matter Experts on Issues and Opportunity -Workshops
  • Community Consultations or Open house feedback
  • Concept Design Reviews or Design Feedback Sessions

Those Involved included:

Key Stakeholders

  • Section 355 Management Committee
  • Bellingen Shire Council
  • Key Community Groups (E.g. Chamber of Commerce) Major Users
  • Bellingen Winter Music Festival
  • Readers and Writers Festival
  • Bellingen Fine Music/Community Arts
  • Bellingen Youth Orchestra
  • Rivers Dance
  • Screenwave
  • Camp Creative,
  • Playback Theatre

Subject Matter Experts

  • Sound, Acoustic and Production Engineers
  • Event Promoters, Set Designers
  • Community Radio (2BBB)
  • Musicians and Artists

In addition, consultation was undertaken with neighbours to the Memorial Hall in relation to both the transformation project and the carpark.

Carpark

A requirement of the Development Application for the Memorial Hall is an allocation/development of a certain number of car parks for that facility to service the Hall activities based on the floor area of the Hall.

As this land associated with the Memorial hall has already been identified in the Bellingen Shire Council Town Centre Parking Strategy (Parking Strategy) adopted by council in February 2019, as being an area that should be investigated for opportunities to increase the parking supply for the town of Bellingen, the Memorial Hall transformation project provides a unique potential to maximise on this opportunity.

Council nominated $700,000 of the total project and grant funding toward the redevelopment of the existing carpark, which currently supplies approximately 60 car parking spaces for the community and Hall users.

With the opportunity now to accelerate the focus on the carpark as a requirement of the DA, and in concert with the recommendations of the Parking Strategy adopted by council in February 2019, the proposed Final Concept plans address the carparking area in respect to the following:

● Expansion of the current carparking capability from approximately 60 to approximately 100 spaces ● Inclusion of two Disability access parks with direct access to the lift entrance of the facility

● Continues with and provides more efficient access to neighbouring properties

● Provides a loading dock for Hall use and for neighbouring property use

● Remodelling of Creek Lane to provide more user friendly and safer access and carriageway for all users

● Improved access and amenity to the current pedestrian link to Hyde Street

● Inclusion of power cabling for intended electric vehicle charging points

The carpark design entails full resurfacing, levelling, storm water management, retaining walls, ramps, resurfacing, line marking, lighting, landscaping, kerb and gutter and wheel stoppers. Offset planting will be considered onsite and offsite with endemic and native species in line with comprehensive advice obtained from a qualified arborist. The large red cedar tree near the bottle shop will be maintained as a tree of significance.

This carpark design has been costed at $1.3m through a Quantity Surveyor (QS) costing. The current project budget entails a contribution from the project to the carpark of $700,000. Council is to fund the additional $600,000 required to provide this carpark upgrade, resulting in not only a safer and more amenable area, but an additional 40 (approximately) carparks for use by Memorial Hall patrons and the community generally.

This is approximately a 66% increase on the number of carparks currently provided in this area, allowing this project to bring additional benefits to the community outside the Hall transformation project itself.

Further Design considerations

The original Concept Design submitted with the Grant Application was informed from the extensive requirements that were gathered in numerous workshops conducted with the key user groups. These groups on the whole represented the major festivals and events, and the majority of regular users of the hall, and included various event, performance and usage types, in addition to subject matter experts such as sound and acoustic engineers.

However, given the timing constraints of the grant process, there were a number of key areas of the requirements and design that were known to have limitations and were required to be revisited in the subsequent design iterations. These included accessibility and flow challenges, limited car park design, acoustic isolation concerns and limited engineering works assessment.

Sibling architects reviewed these requirements, and with the benefit of additional time, were able to not only address these outstanding issues, but to revise the original concept designs and offer significantly more innovation, scope and options. They did this over a number of iterations, many of which were able to be reviewed by the key user groups to assess their relative merit.

Some of these variations included:

● Significant redesign of the front of the house to activate and increase the size of the foyer, maximise the space with the relocation and increase of the toilet facilities and provide better flow and access to the main hall

● Better raking of new seats with improved line of sight to the stage

● Multiple car park designs, some including multi-level capacity

● Opening of the current walkway to be an activated and integrated part of the design

● Increased Back of House facilities including multi-functional green rooms

● Multiple integrating deck and kitchenette options

● Accessibility and flow issues

In fact, at the peak of the creative process, one of the most exciting design iterations included an integrated multilevel car park and incorporated an outdoor stage and large deck area.

However, the design process is a balancing act between user requirements, aspirations, budget, costs, heritage guidelines, building codes compliance and engineering constraints; and many of the areas that required more detailed analysis had a significant impact on the budget.

One of these areas was the car park design, with the current DA requirements for the new design requiring an additional 40 (approximately) car spaces to be included (1 car park per 100sqm), and thus an extension of the car park scope. Whilst this will add tremendous value to the Memorial Hall and the community as a whole, it did increase the scope of the project.

So, after many iterations the final recommended approach is a design that:

● meets the aspirations of the vision for HUB and the grant application

● meets the current needs of the community and the upgrade needs of the hall

● provides the right mix of potential, re-use and adaptability to promote and enable new opportunities, performances and capability for the Shire - well into the future

Detailed Design

The detailed design phase focussed on the fit-out, operability and included consideration of delivery such as:

· Finalising external material specifications, informed by BCA requirements including fire compliance. Colour and finish of materials will be informed by heritage consultant advice.

· Interior design development, including material and finish specifications. Works to the Foyer and Hall will consider the existing heritage fabric of the building as well as the proposed uses of these spaces. Materials will consider acoustic requirements of the spaces and be durable to support the highly trafficked nature of a public building.

· Selection of internal fittings, fixtures and equipment appropriate for the use of the building

· Finalising services systems including mechanical ventilation systems, electrical and hydraulic systems

· Finalising structural design and details, including repair works to the Hall

· Audio Visual upgrades and specifications

· External landscape design

Funding Strategy

The project is proposed to be funded with via a mixture of grant funding, general revenue and loan funding as detailed in the table below: Councils current adopted Long Term Financial Plan estimated total project costs of $4.13M. The final detailed designs costings require an additional budget variation of $1.596M in order to fund the preferred design.option.

Funding source

Amount

Regional Cultural fund grant

$3,300,000

Stronger Country Communities grant

$335,151

Council contribution

$500,000

Loan-Council

$1,596,331

Council has been prudent in the use of borrowings, traditionally holding very low levels of debt. The best indicator of this is measured by the Debt Service Coverage Ratio. The Debt Service Cover Ratio is used to measure the availability of operating cash to service debt including interest and principal payments.

It also shows the commitment of future revenue necessary to fund long term obligations. Council’s current Long Term Financial Plan shows an average of $6.20 in available operating cash for every $1 of loan required to be paid, this is a very healthy position, well above the minimum benchmark of $1.50 as set by the Office Local Government

The loan amount proposed includes contingencies and is based on QS estimates. It is intended that through cost containment strategies and rigorous project management, along with the ongoing focus on securing additional grants (some which will now be available through the recent National Trust Heritage Listing), the total amount that may need to be borrowed could be reduced and every endeavour will be made in this regard.

In terms of funding this project, it is important to acknowledge that this project will create a facility that will be used by future generations. To ensure intergenerational equity, the use of borrowing costs is a sound strategy i.e. future generations are paying towards the cost of construction of the facility.

To facilitate the annual internal loan repayments, council will continue on its journey of reviewing its business operations and services to the community, as it has over past years. Council will look to find savings in other programs and services in order to facilitate the adjustment to the Long Term Financial Plan.