Bringing Bunbury CBD to life with civic precinct

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Bunbury Regional Art Galleries could be expanded with a new gallery to feature in designs for a Civic and Cultural Precinct in the CBD.
Camera IconBunbury Regional Art Galleries could be expanded with a new gallery to feature in designs for a Civic and Cultural Precinct in the CBD. Credit: Norman Bailey / South Western Times

A new art gallery, multi-deck carpark and civic square in the heart of Bunbury will be included in the design of the highly-anticipated Civic and Cultural Precinct.

Concept designs will now be drawn up following nearly unanimous support by Bunbury City Council about what key elements to include in the multi-million dollar precinct.

The precinct has been on the cards since 2015 when it was identified “a perceived lack of car parking” in the CBD was affecting businesses and hindering new developments.

The council hopes a decked carpark mixed with a civic square and possible retail and residential opportunities will increase the social and economic vibrancy in the CBD, activate community spaces, provide a long-term parking solution and encourage new development.

Consultants from Bollig Design Group will now come up with potential designs for the precinct and will include a 300-bay multi-deck carpark, a new gallery which would expand the Bunbury Regional Art Galleries and the civic square.

The design of the carpark will include provision for it to be later increased to 600 bays.

During a discussion over the inclusions at the council’s meeting this week, the project was described as a “forward step” for the city.

The only vote against the design elements came from Cr Michelle Steck who described the capital costs of the project as “explosive”.

Acting chief executive officer Mal Osborne responded the council was at the “very, very early stages” of the project and business cases would be considered as part of the process.

Mayor Gary Brennan would not respond to Cr Steck’s comment, but said this week’s progress was an important step in a “significant project for the long-term future of our city”.

“It’s another step in the process and as I’ve made comment before, this is a process not to be rushed and the community absolutely need to own this,” Mr Brennan told the South Western Times.

“So slowly, steadily, in a very orderly manner, taking the community along that journey is so important.”

The $6.3 million from the sale of the Cornwall Street carpark has been earmarked for the precinct, which is also reliant on extra money including State and Federal funding.

Consultants have been given a “very clear brief” to engage with the community and stakeholders during the design process.

Mr Brennan said it was up to Bollig as to how that consultation would happen.

“But they’ve been given a very clear brief from the city council to engage widely with the community and particularly with the stakeholders,” he said.

“The stakeholders being the art gallery, the people involved in that, car parking organisations as well as the Bunbury Geographe Chamber of Commerce and Industry – those sort of organisations that have a very large membership with a strong focus on our CBD.”

The new gallery element received wide support among councillors this week with the idea it would complement the existing galleries and provide additional flexible exhibition and storage space.

Cr Judy Jones said the prospect of a new gallery was exciting.

“It really is fantastic – I think there’s going to be a lot of community consultation, community input,” Cr Jones said.

“It’s a very exciting prospect that this core area here will make its mark as a civic square and have a lot of people involvement.

“Given that we’re confirming these elements, I think it really is a forward step for the city and it’s a great forward move.”

Deputy Mayor Brendan Kelly said he hoped the council would “sell a few lamingtons or buy a few lotto tickets” so it could get a “windfall” to create a gallery that would be a highlight for the South West and possibly internationally-recognised.

Bollig will also develop business cases for commercial, retail and food and beverage opportunities in the precinct and for public private partnership opportunities, including parking, residential, commercial and tertiary education.

The design will also include the connection of Centenary Gardens into the precinct, including a shared space on sections of Wittenoom and Prinsep streets.

Bollig is expected go back to council with the design in two to three months.

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