Over the past 15 years, Council has undertaken a variety master planning work for the Civic Precinct that houses the West Gippsland Art Centre. The different drivers for this work have included:
- Setting a plan for enhancing the West Gippsland Art Centre,
- Addressing the separation between the old Council offices located in Warragul, Drouin and Trafalgar, and
- Wanting to explore opportunities to provide a function centre, community rooms, Council chambers, the library, exhibition space, rehearsal and workshop studios and a plaza/forecourt area.
For a detailed timeline, please see ‘The Journey So Far’ below.
Some of this master planning work resulted in millions of dollars of grant funding to upgrade the site, including the $14M West Gippsland Art Centre upgrade which was majority funded by the state and federal governments.
At present, the Civic Precinct provides:
- A regional scale performing arts centre that houses a 750 seat theatre and art exhibition space,
- A gallery restaurant and café,
- One of Council’s primary customer service centres,
- The “Fountain Room” 120 person capacity function space with commercial kitchen and bar,
- A location for Council meetings (held in the Fountain Room fortnightly)
- A bookable multipurpose meeting room,
- Some Council office accommodation,
- Facilities for the Community College Gippsland, Calvary Baptist Church, Warragul Municipal Band, Youth Band training and Off Leash Theatre
- An expansive public forecourt area,
- A location for the Warragul Farmers Market and Arts Market,
- Public toilet facilities and associated amenities,
- Connectivity to the open space of Civic Park, and
- Significant on-street and off-street carparking.
Below is an image of the West Gippsland Civic Precinct Masterplan - Current Conditions
In 2019, Council decided to build upon previous master planning work and confirm a direction for the future of the precinct. This direction will help to make sure the proposed future investment into the site of $6 million (subject to some external funding support) over the next 8 years will deliver what Baw Baw’s community want from the Civic Precinct.
The open community consultation process in July-August 2020 directly informed the development of the master plan for the site, clarifying the community’s vision, as well as providing understanding of key potential issues and opportunities.
Other Council strategies and planning work relevant to the site included the 2019 Community Hubs Strategy, the 2017 Warragul Civic Park Masterplan and the Warragul Town Centre Urban Design Framework. These have been considered by Hansen Partnership in developing the master plan.
The journey so far
- New building project initiated to prepare expressions of interest for the development of a Master Plan for a Civic Precinct in Civic Place. (This included the requirement for co-location of council officers from Warragul, Drouin and Trafalgar).
- Council Plan 2006-2010 identified the Civic Centre and West Gippsland arts Centre Redevelopment to develop Councils Vibrant Communities Objective.
- The development of the Civic Precinct Plan as a Key Strategic Action.
- Tender period for the development of the Civic Precinct Master Plan closed.
- Mid 2006 actions deferred to explore alternate locations.
- Regional Development Victoria Grant confirmed to enhance West Gippsland Arts Centre.
- (New council) Briefing in respect to advancing the project, options included a new structure or renovation of existing. Report identifies consideration for office accommodation. Deferred.
- Civic Precinct formed part of the Warragul Town Centre Urban design framework and Station Precinct Masterplan.
- The Masterplan identified a strategy to create a series of green space links from the southern recreational reserves to the Civic Park to the North. With the provision of seeking to provide pedestrians with an attractive, safe passage and access to key facilities within the Town Centre.
- The document also provided community consultation feedback on for the Civic Centre and Precinct uses at that time.
- Baw Baw Shire Officers undertook a master planning exercise to determine the future scope of the West Gippsland Arts Centre and in consideration of the Civic Park/Precinct Master planning interface.
- During 2012-13, the Council developed and adopted the Council Plan 2013 – 2017. This plan identified objectives relating to delivering:
- quality community services,
- quality of life,
- financial responsibility reducing the asset renewal gap,
- planning for future community needs,
- and sustainable use and management of natural resources and the environment.
- The Plan also identified several Key Strategic Activities associated with the precinct and Council commitment for significant funding to the West Gippsland Arts centre to develop a dynamic, vibrant and inclusive communities and delivering affordable and quality services facilities and infrastructure.
- The Public Open Space Strategy 2014 identified the preparation of park masterplans for the Shire as a key measure for implementation of the open space strategies. The Strategy contained an action plan to guide the implementation of Warragul Civic Park and form part of the implementation of the open space strategy.
- Council were underway with the development of a master planning project for the staged redevelopment of West Gippsland Civic Precinct site. Developed by William Ross Architects this work also included the initial schematic design for redevelopment of West Gippsland Arts Centre (WGAC) and possible phasing of precinct facilities.
- Council accepted the reports provided for the redevelopment of the West Gippsland Arts Centre as Phase 1 and the Civic Precinct to be developed as Phase 2.
- Phase 1 funding strategies utilized:
- Regional Jobs and infrastructure fund (used for 1st stage of WGAC)
- National Stronger Regions Fund (used for 1st stage of WGAC)
- Council were briefed on progress of the draft Master Plan development for the Precinct. This work also included the initial schematic designs for the redevelopment of the West Gippsland Arts Centre, inclusive of the following:
- Refurbishment/redevelopment of the Fountain Room, Civic Foyer and WGAC backstage. (Note: this was originally detailed in the draft masterplan to be included as part of stage 1 works of WGAC redevelopment).
- Redevelopment of Smith Street Annexe to include Exhibition Space, Rehearsal and Workshop Studios (Stage 2).
- Extension of the facility to include a Function Centre and repurpose/refurbish Fountain Room into Council Chambers, Council Lounge and community Rooms (Stage 3).
- Extension of the facility to include Library, Exhibition Space, Rehearsal Space, Studio Theatre and the forecourt area (Stage 4).
- Council adopted the Warragul Civic Park Master Plan to set the strategic direction for the development of the Civic Park.
- Additionally; the development of the Community Hubs Strategy which included the community’s aspirations for a community hub in the Warragul township. This provided the opportunity for council to explore community hub type services that could interface or be delivered from possible facilities proposed as part of the Civic Precinct redevelopment.
- Funding: Capital Works Program - Councils Future Forward Design Program funding equated to $80,000.
- Initial briefing to councillors on the proposal to develop the masterplans next phase. Issues associated with the range of different spaces and potential services associated with the site were discussed.
- The approved outcome was to actively re-engage with the broader community to develop and capture the visions of the community within the masterplan.
- Workshop to revisit what work had been developed previously relating to Warragul Civic Place Master Plan understanding community changes since the previous master planning workshops and review appropriate relevance.
- Consultants brief developed with key components to progress the next phase of the master plan.
- Hansen Partnership Pty Ltd Urban Planning Consultant appointed to further develop the community’s needs.
- Scope proposal to re-commence master planning processes including reactivation of community engagement adopted by Council.