It is back to the drawing board for the controversial Bondi Pavilion refurbishment, with the new mayor declaring everything is “on the table” when it comes to upgrading the historic building.
Waverley mayor John Wakefield said he is prepared to scrap the existing development proposal in favour of a completely new approach, in a bid to draw a line under the controversy that plagued the former council.
Cr Wakefield said fresh designs for the pavilion would be drawn up over the next six months in consultation with a newly-appointed community taskforce, with a view to starting construction by July next year.
“We don’t know for certain the course forward. All we know are a set of absolute facts. The community didn’t like the original process or design.”
He said the whole building would be reassessed and “all would be on the table”, but added that any refurbishments would likely remain within the building’s existing envelope and would aim to reduce costs well below the $38 million pricetag attached to the initial revamp plans.
The pavilion policy reset is the first major decision of the newly elected council, which voted unanimously on Tuesday night to seek advice on how to revise the current plans or whether the project should be “completely reassessed”.
The council also agreed to establish a new 10-member “stakeholder committee” to advise on the “desired uses and functions of the pavilion”.
The committee’s advice will be tabled in a report to council by February, and will inform a revised brief to architects, which are expected to prepare the new designs by April, Cr Wakefield said.
???”I don’t want this group to design this building. They have to give us a list of what has to be in this building to satisfy the arts and cultural community in Bondi,” Cr Wakefield said.
“There are some fairly clear things that have to be done to this building. The roof has to be fixed. No one opposes that. We have to have enough toilets in this building to service the beach, or we have to build another toilet block elsewhere.”
Cr Wakefield said the council would continue to progress other elements of the development application, such as environmental and traffic studies, with a view to “dropping in” the new designs into the existing application.
This new approach – the latest chapter in the long-running saga around the proposed refurbishment of the pavilion – comes after Labor and Greens snatched control of the council in last month’s election, while the Liberals were reduced to five seats.
The former Liberal-dominated council endured a tumultuous 18-months in the lead up to the election, after it unveiled a $38 million redevelopment plan for the pavilion in 2016, sparking widespread community outrage and a celebrity-led grassroots campaign against the proposal.
The backlash ultimately forced the former Liberal mayor Sally Betts to adopt a staged approach to the refurbishment, which proceeded with $16.7 million of upgrades while leaving the more controversial aspects of the proposal to be determined by the new council.
Cr Betts said the council’s new approach did not necessarily mean the current development application – which involved restoring the pavilion’s heritage facade, upgrading facilities in the northern courtyard, and doubling the number of female toilets – would be entirely overhauled.
“The main thing is to restore its heritage value and make it a usable space for people who swim and people who come to events there,” she said.
“The detail of whether the pottery room is on one side [of the building] or the other is irrelevant to that.”