In late 2012, Melbourne’s Banyule Council opened an impressive leisure and aquatic facility in Greensborough that is a rarity in council planning – it was built and funded with the long term future in mind. The most amazing aspect is the “future proofing” of the construction that will enable it to become the centre of a new civic, community and retail hub.
While planning the development, the council saw an opportunity to completely revitalise a popular but ageing precinct. As a result, the project also includes the renewal of Main Street, Greensborough and the adjacent town centre; and the establishment of pedestrian links from Greensborough train station to WaterMarc and the retail centre.
The entire project cost $50 million: $42 million for the design and construction of WaterMarc, and $8 million for the associated regeneration. The project was a decade in the making, with project objectives identified as early as 2002 with the development of the Greensborough Structure Plan.
“The area was looking for injectional refurbishment and this project was supposed to be linked with a $300m retail upgrade,” says Peter Utri, Manager of Organisational Performance at Banyule Council. “Because of the GFC that wasn’t able to proceed, but it’s seen as a catalyst for that future activity in the area.”
WaterMarc is the first stage in the overall plan. Although the economic climate made the bigger public-private project unfeasible at that time, the council decided to go ahead with the community facilities for the area, and plan the construction in such a way that the whole plan would reach fruition within ten years.
“Across the road you’ve got a commercial district with accounting offices, aged care services, a large medical centre, Centrelink and other department developments in train; and a large retail shopping centre from Lend Lease just across from Main Street which separates those two zones. This centre and the town square and walk will create the link between them,” he says.
Currently on the upper level of the centre is a gym, as well as community meeting and workshop spaces, a crèche and the centre’s administration offices. But more is planned.
“Council offices will be built above this development. It is future-proofed for another three storeys of development above it, and so the council’s current three different offices will be combined into a single space. The rest of the development will be elevated above either side of the walk in two- and three-storey developments as well as multi-storey residential developments.”
When all that happens, the aquatic centre will be at the heart of a dynamic new town centre. There is even provision in the carpark under the pool to slip in extra levels to accommodate the increased requirements.
“We’re really looking in the next few years to progress the second stage which is the council’s civic offices. It’s certainly the shorter to mid-term rather than the longer term for the rest of the development.”
The initial $50m stage was funded mostly by the council, with a $12m input from the Victorian Government and $5m from the Federal Government.
Utri says that it’s a substantial project and also incredible value. “I’ve been involved in a few centre developments over the years, but this has been really good value for money and an amazing result.”
The centre features Prominent ProMaqua disinfection, Waterco air scouring filters and Eurogen condensing heaters.
The council estimates a boost to the local economy from the creation of 250 new jobs in a mix of full-time, part-time and casual. The facility is expected to attract around one million visitors per year, many from outside the local area.
Approximately $500,000 was saved by internally managing the project, which was delivered on time and on budget.