The impetus for the civic precinct project began some ten years ago with two events. In 2007, the Forster School of Arts Hall had become unsafe for continued community use and was decommissioned. This left our community without valuable meeting space in the Forster CBD.
At around the same time, it was becoming apparent to the community that the Great Lakes Library building was an inadequate size - only half the NSW Library minimum recommended size for the community it serves.
The former Great Lakes Council began to investigate and plan for meeting these needs after the community indicated very emphatically the priority to meet these community needs.
In addition, Forster's Visitor Information Centre building was in need of expensive maintenance.
The land on which the Visitor Information Centre and the former Forster School of Arts Hall stood became the focus for a plan for the civic precinct, which would also house a new, larger library for the community. Initial plans were developed, but the small site required an expensive underground car park, and Council was seeking funding to undertake this project.
The site 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 for $3 million allowed the development of community facilities with improved car parking options. Council had resolved to invest $6 million to build the community facilities. Very soon after this purchase, Council was successful in obtaining Federal grant funding of $6 million, matched dollar for dollar by Council. This exciting development meant we could now build a $12 million community facility on the civic precinct site.
In 2015, Council resolved to investigate the possibility of entering into a commercial partnership with a developer to allow a mix of private and public use of this valuable site close to Forster's CBD. After seeking expressions of interest from the market for the project, Council entered into an agreement with Enyoc, who will provide Council with $6 million in-kind towards building the community facilities for the project - a great outcome for MidCoast ratepayers.
The project has now moved into the planning phase, with Enyoc's concept plans being developed alongside the community facility build. These plans required an amendment to the Great Lakes Local Environmental Plan (LEP) to allow an increased floor space ratio as well as an increased building height for the site (matching adjoining land sites).
The project represents a significant development for Forster-Tuncurry, providing high quality facilities to meet the expectations and requirements of visitors and residents. The public facilities proposed for the site create a catalyst for further residential and commercial development, creating a vibrant southern gateway for Forster's town centre.
The public facilities will be an exciting addition to the town centre, including a new library, indoor and outdoor public community meeting space, a new visitor information centre, community green spaces and gardens and car parking.
Enyoc will develop the residual of the site for commercial purposes, over several stages, which may include facilities such as seniors living apartments, retail shops and a supermarket, cinema, hotel, nightclub, child care centre and gymnasium.