One step forward…              the Hepburn Hub

December 20th, 2020One step forward… the Hepburn Hub

THERE is no doubt, the Hepburn Hub at The Rex in Vincent Street, Daylesford has been an absolute disaster from the outset.

The building, a former theatre which had most recently been a bargain shop and then shopping mall before it was bought by Hepburn Shire Council in 2016 for $6.345 million, now has a price tag north of $12 million.
The project stalled in June 2018 after it was realised the renovation cost would be more than $1 million, creating a need for a planning permit.
More recently it was found that some of the building works had not been done to building codes and had to be dumped. A photo, taken last year, shows the work that was started on the council staffing areas, while the next photo shows that work has been removed.

Insulation and glass, not to code, has been thrown out with a council spokesperson saying no-one wants second-hand goods. The building is also not water-tight, with water clearly visible in the second photo.
I took a tour of the building last Friday and it was quite upsetting, also as a ratepayer, to see the costs mounting as the council tries to salvage what it can of the formerly beautiful building.
An investigation into what happened is pending and there are concerns about libel, so no-one is laying blame and it is clear the council is now set on a path to do what it can to recover and open a fully functional and attractive Hepburn Hub with a library, community theatre, information centre, youth drop-in space, meeting rooms for rent and council offices. But there are plenty of questions not yet answered.
The building, which was originally bought so the council could re-open public toilets in the main street of Daylesford, has just three public unisex toilets. This is within the building code but it will be interesting to see how that works with a full cinema and a few library patrons, and people popping in off the street. The operating hours have not yet been determined.
The only access to the community cinema’s projector is via a crawl space. Yes, it will mostly be run remotely, but if something goes wrong, one of the volunteers, many older residents, will be expected to crawl through a man-hole to gain access.

Council staff will have to hot desk. Hot desking is where you do not have a particular desk, you just take whichever is vacant on the day. It is quite controversial with the pros including greater flexibility and desks not left vacant while people take leave. Among the cons are workers who like to personalise their desk with a photo of family or a pot plant, perhaps pop a couple of muesli bars in a top drawer, and IT issues like phone extensions and printer connections. The council says the only way hot desking can be avoided is if all meeting rooms are removed or the size of the building is increased. There is an office allocated for the CEO and a dedicated space for the mayor and councillors.

There are two large David Bromley murals, on the wall leading up to the cinema and on the wall outside the council staff toilets. These were both commissioned by the former council and not run past the council’s Public Art Panel. The murals will remain and the Public Art Panel will now look at some way of displaying other local artists on other walls on a rotating basis. Finally, a social enterprise cafe, which would have provided hospitality work experience to young people, has been dropped because government funding for the library relied on a metreage space, and the cafe impinged on that.
It really is a case of “watch this space”.

Words & images: Donna Kelly

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