BALLARAT City Council will this week vote on a recommendation for a new home for the city’s Visitor Information Centre – an issue of significant controversy in recent years.
And we’re not convinced that the recommendations being put to the vote this week will have the support of many ratepayers.
The former State Bank building in Sturt St, the Ballarat Town Hall, the Mining Exchange and St Andrew’s Church have all been investigated as shortlisted sites for the visitor centre by consultants Urban Enterprise.
Numerous other potential sites in the CBD, including the former Provincial Hotel, Mining Exchange and former Post Office building were also assessed but found to be lacking with appropriate space or access.
Most notably, the consultants identified the Town Hall as second choice, with the only pitfall being that it is currently not available.
The council, for its part, has been left, literally, with no room to move after plans for the redevelopment of the Civic Hall site were defeated late last year.
The Civic Hall itself, with its future remaining clouded, was also assessed as part of the study.
The preferred State Bank option as identified by the consultants, while fitting the needs in terms of size and accessibility, will require at least some change to the parking strategy in the Camp St/Sturt St area.
That might or might not be a stumbling block but surely this is not the major issue.
What is of most importance is getting a result that in the long term for the city will provide the best outcome.
While at the moment, the Town Hall and Civic Hall are not available or feasible, does that mean we should be discounting these venues as potential long-term homes for the centre?
The temporary site, while far from ideal, might well be sufficient to provide an even longer stop-gap measure until either usage of the Town Hall or Civic Hall sites becomes clearer.
The costs will likely be prohibitive, but what would be the impact of the relocation of back-of-office council staff from the town hall to another building to free sufficient space to host the visitor information centre?
It might come down to whether the council considers the time imperatives.
Does it impact visitor numbers if the centre stays at a temporary site for too long?
We look forward to the debate.