AFTER years of failures, challenges, rallies, forums and division, Ballarat's Civic Hall stands today as it did a decade ago broken and unused.
Within the centre of one of Australia's best and fastest growing regional communities, the Civic Hall of the past 10 years has become a symbol for everything we hope and wish our city is not.
On Wednesday, Ballarat City Council will vote on a recommendation to demolish the almost 60-year-old building.
The Courier believes it is time for the council to take decisive action to energise the centre of our city. We believe it's time for those elected to lead our community having had ample opportunity to consider all the facts and information collated during the past decade on a path from which they will not waver. Every four years we put faith in elected community members to make tough calls based upon their own talents, skills and understanding, most importantly in circumstances where views are strong and varied.
A decision to demolish the Civic Hall building will not please all members of our community and will not receive support from all councillors.
Supporters of retaining the hall have been well organised and their message well heard. Many hold memories only alive through recalling and retelling stories of concerts and events at the hall. Days when the world was smaller and definitely simpler.
Ballarat's fascination with the past is neither wholly detrimental nor always helpful but it has defined many decisions made by Ballarat City Council.
As The Courier recalls today, many proposals to develop the site during the past decade have included demolition of the current hall. Yet still it stands, a light brown beacon of defiance against development and as a sign of the immense power of public opinion which is ingrained in the psyche of our city.
According to Mayor John Burt, it will cost about $2 million to demolish the Civic Hall so, seemingly, the council has learned from previous failings that it cannot win a war fought on the costs of development.
Indeed, specific development propositions should the hall come down are not the focus of the latest council report. This point will deservedly attract public criticism but also gives those opposing a much smaller target at which to strike.
Starting from a blank canvas will provide better direction and opportunity to develop a site which serves and promotes use by our community and visitors. It allows for the possibility of commercial development should the economy improve and creates potential for visionary and exciting new spaces that our city's CBD is crying out for. Without the current hall, it can be a site unencumbered by the past.
Yet it is just possibilities, opportunities and potential. If the council succeeds in demolishing the hall, scrutiny over what happens in its place, and what it will cost, will be deservedly just as intense as any debate of recent years.
Repairing the current building would undoubtedly be within the realms of expenditure already outlined in this year's council budget. However there's not a soul who has been able to categorically and definitively prove that long-term community usage would be any more vital than it was in the past. In its last year before closure, the Civic Hall was used on just 40 occasions.
Keeping and upgrading the hall is the inoffensive and possible the most popular option but the question remains: if retention and upgrading was the best solution, why have we largely ignored such a proposition for the past decade?
Is it arrogance? Or do our dreams outweigh our realities? Rationally, it is because reinvention without addressing the core problem is fraught with danger and there are not enough people in positions of power prepared to put their names against something that didn't work once, let alone twice.
Wednesday night's council meeting stands as another significant marker on the Civic Hall timeline. Not yet running but at the very least walking. A significant step from 10 years of crawling.