Shellharbour Mayor Chris Homer has allayed fears the new Shell Cove Waterfront Centre will be a white elephant taking up precious green space.
A development application for the two-storey community centre, library and visitor information centre is before council and is open for comment until 9 August.
The building will offer a range of spaces for multiple activities including a library, gallery, meeting rooms for hire, a visitors information area and multiple spaces for activities such as yoga and playgroups.
However, some residents have taken to social media to question the need for another library for the city and the impact it will have on green space and parking around the marina area.
Cr Homer said the perception that the building was a library in and of itself and that libraries were “old archaic places with dusty books and cobwebs” was “absolutely not what’s happening”.
“Shellharbour City Council has a demonstrated track record, from the Civic Centre to the new Warilla Library, for our community connection hubs and this should probably even be called that – it’s a community connection hub that houses a library and community spaces that can be hired,” he said.
“They’re places where people from all socio-economic backgrounds from within this city – whether you’re struggling to put bread and cheap sausages on the table for your family or you’re living on the oceanfront – can go, where you can relax, where it’s accepted that you don’t have to put your hand in your wallet to be in that space.
“It’s also the opportunity for everyone to be in a space at the community’s newest and brightest asset, which is the marina space. That whole area is one of the things that the region’s promoted on nowadays and it’s a lovely space.”
The design of the Waterfront Centre has been inspired by the curves of a tugboat forged by traditional ship building materials. The designers say it will be a “local icon enhancing the position of Shell Cove harbour as a blue water landmark on the east coast of Australia”.
The community centre and visitor information centre will share the building’s ground floor. The community space will include a large function area with 110 patron capacity, two hireable multipurpose rooms, kitchen and staff lockers, gallery space and publicly accessible amenities with after-hours access.
The proposed library on the first floor will contain a large collection of books and other library materials integrating technology, and a variety of seating and working arrangements. The design supports a range of uses from educational/book talks, dedicated children’s storytelling area, private study and publicly accessible meeting rooms and open informal seating.
Cr Homer said only 11 per cent of the available green space would be taken up by the building.
“The rest of the area surrounding the community centre is going to have fresh eyes cast over it to ensure that the green space that everyone’s so concerned about is maximised and beautified,” he said.
“It will be an opportunity to have a look at the surrounding area and make sure that it’s fitting into what we see there now and it will go out to the community for consultation and commentary.
“The community also has to remember that this long-standing joint venture project between council and Australand and then Frasers, has been built and sold upon the fact that people who’ve bought houses down there are looking forward to a community centre that will house an educational-style library and space, so there are prior commitments and obligations that need to be adhered to.”
Cr Homer said he hoped that in the future, through education and by fostering active transport strategies, people wouldn’t be hardwired to get in their car to drive 500 m to their favourite car parking spot to get their coffee.
“We can’t just keep putting up monolithic multi-storey carparks when people are crying out for housing,” he said.
“We have to look at it holistically, and find solutions that foster active transport as well, so people can get on their electric bike and ride down there a kilometre and not necessarily take up car parking spaces where people from Wollongong might need it.”