HUNDREDS of Ballarat residents gathered outside Civic Hall today for the official announcement of the Open Door Studio - a collaborative design space that will allow residents to propose future plans for the site.
The Civic Hall has been a contentious issue for the city for many years - thousands of residents protested it’s demolition but nobody has been able to come up with a clear plan for redesign or restoration.
Now, the Open Design Studio is aiming to take these community concepts and decide on three main designs to bring before city council within the next 12 months.
City of Ballarat Mayor John Philips opened the hall doors with a little help from primary school pupil Leela Sweet, 7, who won the keys to the hall after entering "on behalf of the children of Ballarat".
Cr Philips was pleased to be giving the planning power to Ballarat residents, and looked forward to the response.
"There are so many ideas out there," he said.
"It's a new day, it's a new process, and it's your process - your opportunity to get involved.
Bands, jumping castles and sausage sizzles marked the occasion, as visitors poured inside to pitch their ideas.
Co-director of Here Studio and one the chief architects for the project, Ammon Beyerle, said it was time to start a real conversation about the hall.
"Here in Ballarat there's a strong sense of passion and of who we are," Mr Beyerle said.
"We can't only be working apart on this, we need to work together.”
He echoed the sentiments presented by Wathaurung elder Uncle Brian in his smoking ceremony and stirring welcome to country.
"This is a great place and a great community," Uncle Brian said.
"Take part in the process, give everyone a voice, and then when it's all done you can walk away with your head held high and say 'I was a part of that'.”
Over 300 ideas have been submitted for the Civic Hall site since 2012 alone, and co-ordinators will have a tremendous job in front of them whittling the numbers down to the final three.
The stellar turnout on Saturday proved that locals are ready and willing to participate in the decision-making process.
"I think if it comes down everybody should get a brick," one resident could be overheard saying.