By Taylah Eastwell
Yarra Ranges Council’s dream of an all-new Civic Centre isn’t too far away, with construction expected to be complete within the year.
Construction of the new council headquarters began in January 2019, and despite some minor Covid-19 setbacks, it remains on track to be opened to the community in early 2022.
Yarra Ranges Council acting CEO, Mark Varmalis said the project had been discussed by council for several years and was the subject of a feasibility study to assess various options for making the Civic Centre a more “contemporary place”.
“Though our previous Civic Centre was compliant with building standards when built, it was more than 50 years old, had some structural integrity issues including significant cracking and a broken floor slab, and had numerous deficiencies in terms of energy efficiency and disability access as well as ongoing costly maintenance issues,” Mr Varmalis said.
In a Star Mail article from 2015, the former Civic Centre was described as a “hodgepodge” of portable buildings and extensions connected to one another as they were needed, with cracks in walls, water and termite damage.
The council awarded the $28.7 million contract to Johns Lyng Commercial Builders in late 2018.
According to Mr Varmalis, the new building will “significantly reduce” the council’s environmental footprint and running costs through energy-efficient and sustainable design.
“It will provide spaces for community events, council meetings and for meetings with council representatives, and it will create a high-quality workplace for staff to work more efficiently and collaboratively,” Mr Varmalis said.
The new building will also enable council staff to work under one roof, ending the need for council to lease its current temporary Community Link at 61-65 Anderson Street, near Lilydale Coles.
“The building and the public spaces were informed by feedback from more than 1600 community members through online and in-person engagement,” Mr Varmalis said.
“Every part of the building – including the community components at the front-of-house – were designed to be accessible. There will be an increase in accessible parking spaces and toilets in the front-of-house area for community members,” he said.
Furniture in the foyer, such as desks and chairs, will be available in different heights to be accessible for people of all abilities.
The outside of the building will feature artworks by First Nations artists,
while indoor spaces will feature signage and information in Woiwurrung alongside English where possible.
The first stage of the project, which involved replacing the former Lilydale Library with office space, has been completed.
The building will be opened to the community once complete.