Bondi Pavilion $38 million dollar plan approved by council; Community campaigners concerned, by Greg Tingle

Bondi Pavilion $38 million dollar plan approved by council; Community campaigners concerned, by Greg Tingle - 19th April 2016

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Bondi Pavilion $38 million dollar plan approved by council; Community campaigners concerned, by Greg Tingle

  • Waverley Council votes to go ahead with $38m Bondi project
  • Mayor Sally Betts says she received threats
  • Opponents criticise "commercialisation" of venue, loss of public facilities

WAVERLEY Council staffers have advised councillors to move forward with the $38-million upgrade of Bondi Pavilion.

In her report to council, Waverley Life director Cathy Henderson recommended approval of the hotly debated plans pending a series of amendments.

If approved, council staff will commence additional reports on the topical and high profile project and begin work on a development application for the upgrade. The report will be discussed at this Tuesday’s meeting.

Potential amendments include acoustic treatment to rooms labelled “community spaces” allowing use for music rehearsals, the northern exhibition space be allocated as a recreation space, changes to internal landscaping, improved access between the theatre and toilets, and a box office on the ground floor.

The changes come after a wave of criticism from the Bondi Beach community, with strong opposition from community members who work in the entertainment and arts sector, including Hoodoo Gurus frontman David Faulkner.

Mr Faulkner said the upgrade was “aimed squarely at handing the pavilion over to commercial interests.”

“We as ratepayers will be paying for commercial businesses to take over the top half of the building,” he said.

“This community space shouldn’t be sold off to the highest bidder, with new tenants no doubt looking forward to a long lease in a prime position facing the beach.”

According to the business paper at last night’s meeting, the project will be financed largely from grants, council revenue and loans offset by “likely increased commercial income”.

The approval would keep pace with council’s timeline for the project, which is slated to start construction in May 2017.

Council received 707 public submissions on the upgrade. Key themes from the consultation were “concerns about potential loss of community facilities and commercialisation”.

Reports coming to council included but were not limited to: a new space for the music studio; a new spot for the pottery studio; the process for tendering commercial tenancies; footpath dining in the forecourt; and programming and hire of the new theatre.

It is anticipated the final application will be decided by the Joint Regional Planning Panel, on advice from the widely respected NSW Heritage Council.

The original plan was released last November, with Waverley Mayor Sally Betts stating at the time: “We absolutely love Bondi Pavilion but know the grand old lady needs a lot of love and work to restore her to her former beauty.”

Actor Michael Caton was one of the plan’s first locals to stated his concerns on the plan. He co-hosted an ­information session on the upgrade in the Pavilion Theatre last month, where ­locals made their concerns known, even if there was a bit of the "preaching to the converted" element.

Mr Caton said the community needed to keep fighting if the plans were voted through. “The campaign is only just heating up but there is more for us to do if we want the pavilion kept as a space for the people,” he said yesterday. “Even if the plan is approved it’s not the end of the fight.”

The Bondi Pavilion is not the first local arts and community project to ignite passionate public discussion by residents, nor will it be the last, but if early reports are any indication, it may be the loudest in quite some time. Even local business success story, The Bucket List, has proven has been a catalyst for community discussion on their neighbors at the Bondi Pavilion, with many actors and artists in the area seen regularly dining and power talking at their establishment in recent weeks.

As a former Bondi Beach local, and as someone who conducts business in the region on a weekly basis, I am hoping for a win - win - win, i.e: win for the community, win for council, and a win for the business and commercial interests involved.  Whether that type of scenario can be achieved is a wait and see situation, but clearly this project is a hot topic with the passionate community campaigners that Bondi Beach is known for. Councillor Betts will be likely hoping to ride out the storm and you can bet that Australian Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull will be watching this space pretty closely. How much of a vote winner (or loser) the Bondi Pavilion revamp plan is remains to be seen, but the topic is not going to die down soon, with the ripples having turned into multiple sets of waves in recent weeks. Stay tuned for 'Big Tuesday'.

What's on the drawing board:

  • Restoration of Campbell Parade grand entrance
  • A new theatre space with retractable seating for 200 people
  • First floor commercial space, which could be used for a cafe or restaurant
  • Expanded exhibition and community areas
  • New amenities including toilets, showers and lockers

Artists impression