The ‘missing piece’ Coffs Harbour needs
Jo Besley can see past the crumbling brick buildings and temporary fencing to a clear vision of how the Cultural and Civic Space will look and feel.
The Coffs Harbour City Council Museum and Gallery Curator is clearly very knowledgeable, and passionate, about it.
She recognises there are sections of the community unhappy with the project, estimated to cost $76.5m.
"But I just don't think people realise how incredible it's going to be."
The Riding Lane fig tree will be retained as a central focus, and there will be an internal street flowing through the building from one side to the other.
"It will be like an internal atrium with lots of natural light and flowing, open space," Ms Besley said.
Fig trees are important meeting places in Gumbangyir culture, and the architect has based the design around this concept, with the working title for the building: All Welcome.
"There are balconies and open spaces and free wi-fi. Even if you're not visiting the library or gallery it will be a place to come and find a seat - a city space refuge.
"It will be open from 6am to 10pm and into the future even 24 hours. There will be CCTV but it's based on safety through design with no nooks and crannies."
One wall will continue up through the entire building (five storeys on the southern side and three on the northern side) with plans to commission a major piece of public art.
A community space, which will double as Council chambers, will feature a commercial kitchen and bar for a range of functions with access to a roof terrace.
The inclusion of council offices in the build has been unpopular with some but Ms Besley says the current situation is unacceptable.
"Most Council workers don't have access to natural light at the moment.
"When people come to do business with Council they want to see a council that is modern and forward thinking."
The new gallery and museum facilities will allow Coffs Harbour to host exhibitions that once were ruled out.
"We don't currently have a properly designed undercover loading dock and this has stopped us getting touring exhibitions from all over.
"People don't understand how limited our current facilities are. We need this to bring us into the 21st Century."
There will be a Digital Creative Studio with a recording booth and range of open source software and a Makerspace which is essentially a workshop area where people can come together to create, collaborate or repurpose.
"The makerspace will be a place of intergenerational exchange - people can come and make, repair and exchange."
Over the next six months a pop up shop will be established at Coffs Central to give the public a taste of the Cultural and Civic Space.
"The architect will bring up a model of the building to give a better three dimensional representation. It's a very complex building, bringing together an unusual combination of innovative spaces."
She says Coffs Harbour is one of the few places between Brisbane and Sydney that has not had a major upgrade of its cultural facilities in recent times.
"This is the missing piece a community like Coffs Harbour of 70,000 needs to bring it into the 21st Century."
The Development Application for the building is currently with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and received over 800 submissions during the public exhibition period.
At a recent Council meeting, general manager Steve McGrath indicated a decision was imminent.
"I have been making inquiries and trying to ascertain the status and the nearest I can tell you is the assessment has been completed and it is with the minister seeking a final decision."