16 May 2024

New cafe to be social hub of upgraded Gorman Arts Centre

| Ian Bushnell

A $13 million renovation of the Gorman Arts Centre will set it up for another 100 years. Photo: Facebook.

Works to upgrade the Gorman Arts Centre in Braddon in its centenary year, including a new cafe, are expected to start later this year after the ACT Government submitted a development application for the $13 million project.

The federal government committed $5 million to the project in its 2022 October budget, followed by $7.9 million from the ACT government in the 2023 February Budget Review.

The ACT Government said the planned upgrades would conserve heritage values, make the complex more workable, and provide accessible and inclusive workspaces for artists and spaces for the community to experience art and arts activities.

The Gorman Arts Centre turns 100 this year and is occupied by some of the ACT’s leading arts organisations, smaller arts groups, arts businesses and individual artists.

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Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy Tara Cheyne said the planned renovations would provide critical building upgrades, including better workshop/rehearsal spaces and enhance the accessibility, safety and sustainability of the Centre.

“These upgrades will ensure the Gorman Arts Centre is a more suitable, fit-for-purpose and accessible place of work for the artists and for the community to engage with the cultural activities that take place there,” she said.

Ms Cheyne said work would be phased to minimise disruption to the occupants, visitors, students and audiences, and the government would help with any temporary relocations on site as work progresses.

According to the DA, the works, designed by Philip Leeson Architects, would create a new, vibrant arts-centre frontage to Batman Street, re-create the original Blocks G1 and H, make it easier for pedestrians to enter the site, improve sightlines and let in more natural light.

The infill building between Block G1 and H will be demolished and a facilities shed removed.

The proposed café will replace the previous Sage restaurant in Block G1, which the architects say will be more appealing than the current artificially lit space.

It is “intended to … provide potential meeting points for clients and artists, hospitality for the day-to-day users, hospitality capacity for events held on-site, meeting and gathering points for the general public to appreciate the site, and a place for informal promotion of the site and its users”.

More landscaping, particularly on the Batman Street side, will also enhance the renovated Centre.

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Federal Finance Minister and ACT Senator Katy Gallagher said the investment honoured an election commitment to Canberrans, particularly the professional and community artists who relied on the Centre.

“The Albanese Labor Government values the contribution of our cultural and arts sector, but we know that a big part of the success of this sector is dependent on having top-quality venues like the Gorman Arts Centre,” she said.

“I’m pleased to see that this project is taking an important step forward and has reached development application stage.”

Construction will start later in 2024, pending the DA’s approval. Early works, which do not require development approval, are scheduled to start in July.

The DA is open for comment until 24 May.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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