It has been a project which divided some sections of the community, a victim of rumour and controversy, but on Wednesday, January 23 a sod turning turning ceremony officially marked the start of the Forster Civic precinct project.
Undertaking the official duties were Member for Lyne, David Gillespie, representing the Federal government which tipped in $6 million towards the $12 million project, along with MidCoast Council mayor, David West.
“The Federal Government investment of $6 million in this project will deliver significant social and economic benefits for our community, with a much needed community meeting space in Forster Tuncurry and facilities including a brand new library and visitor centre,” Dr Gillespie said.
“The civic precinct, which incorporates a number of projects, will include public facilities, retirement living and apartments, delivering more than 200 jobs throughout the construction phase and a further 200 on-going jobs,” he said.
“It’s another important economic project that I’m delighted the Federal Government is participating in here in Forster.”
We’re all excited at the prospect of gaining a library space that will meet the needs of the community in Forster.David West
Cr West acknowledged The Friends of the Library (FOGLLS), a group which has been providing advice and assistance on the project since its inception.
“We’re all excited at the prospect of gaining a library space that will meet the needs of the community in Forster,” Cr West said.
“We’re also looking forward to a new visitor information centre, that will showcase the region to our visitors.
“Tourism underpins our local economy and it’s vital that we support this industry and remain competitive as a NSW destination.”
The project had its beginnings in 2007 when the Forster School of Arts Hall was rendered unsafe, leaving the community without valuable meeting space.
At around the same time the Forster-based Great Lakes Library was identified inadequate in size to cater for community demand.
The site, located on the corner of Lake, West and Middle streets, was acquired with the intent of utilising part of the land for the council facilities and exploring commercial opportunities for the development of the rest of the land.
This strategic purchase allowed the development of community facilities with improved car parking options.
In 2015, council resolved to investigate the possibility of entering into a commercial arrangement with a developer to allow a mix of private and public use of the site close to Forster's CBD.
After seeking expressions of interest from the market council entered into an agreement with Enyoc, which will provide council with $6 million in-kind funding.
Ratepayers will benefit from an $18 million facility for a $6 million council investment, thanks to the Federal grant funding of $6 million and the commercial agreement, Cr West said.
It’s expected that the community facilities will be complete and open to the public by September 2020.
FOGLLS president, Helen Duggan was looking forward to unpacking the thousands of publications in the new library space.
More than twice the size of the existing Forster library the two storey community facility would resemble a large and comfy loungeroom, Mrs Duggan said.
“It will make such a big difference, and it is located in a great position.”
Parking woes which have plagued library users visiting the Breeze Parade premises would also expected to be eliminated with a large, underground car park.
Developer Coyne Graham said his company had already received expressions of interest for the corner tower of the proposed retirement accommodation.
He said the project would include everything geared towards the retirement market, including a mini-supermarket, hairdresser, gym, massage and much more.
“It is all about wellness and about community engagement,” Mr Graham said.
He said stage two of the four stage project would start in June 2020.
A restaurant and cinema had been placed on hold.
For more information on the project, visit Forster Civic Precinct Development.
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