ST COLUMBA’S Hall could be resurrected into a community hub once more, after the Ballarat City Council voted to relocate the storm-damaged structure to the University of Ballarat’s Gillies Street campus.
Under a plan to breathe life into the collapsed and neglected hall, council staff will now work with interest groups, such as the university and Men’s Shed, that might wish to join together and work co-operatively to restore all or parts of it.
The hall, stored at council’s Ring Road depot since 2007, is in a poor state after several storms have damaged the historic building.
Construction of the Western Link Road has required its urgent relocation.
In moving the motion, Central Ward councillor Samantha McIntosh said although the hall appeared to be in a state of disrepair, advice from specialists indicated there was hope.
“We need to show we understand the character and the significance of this building,” she said.
“It’s sitting there looking like a pile of sticks at the moment. It’s an opportunity that needs discovering.”
The council’s Growth and Development director Eric Braslis told councillors the hall had undergone a number of relocations since it was constructed in the 1890s.
“Since 2009 the building has deteriorated to the point at which, at some point of time, the building collapsed,” he said.
He said parts of the hall still had their integrity intact, but the cost of relocating the building would be upwards of $10,000 to $15,000.
Cr McIntosh said it was time the council did the right thing by the hall.
She said it also had the potential to address needs in the community.
“It’s being respectful to our heritage, understanding our past and allowing the people of Ballarat to embrace what we had in the past, for the future,” she said.
“The biggest opportunity is to develop speciality trade skills.”
But South Ward councillor Des Hudson said it was premature to commit to working with interest groups on the project.
Cr Hudson said he could not see how the remnants of the hall would fit into any current council strategies.
“Sometimes there comes a time to say goodbye to something. This hall has had many lives over a number of years,” he said.
The hall came close to to being restored in 2010 when it was at the centre of a campaign to return it to the community, but the plans later collapsed when they were deemed financially unviable.
An expression of interest has now been received from the University of Ballarat to develop a proposed education and community engagement opportunity to reconstruct the hall.