18 August 2023

Griffith cultural precinct master plan flags future 'clock building' repurposing, new art gallery

| Oliver Jacques
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The clock building

The clock building is a landmark in Griffith. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A draft blueprint to improve Griffith’s cultural attractions has flagged the possibility of expanding the town’s library into the neighbouring ‘clock building’ at some point in the future, and highlighted the need for a new art gallery to be built, preferably on Banna Avenue.

The Cultural Precinct Master Plan is currently on display and awaiting public feedback. The community can have their say at a meeting at 6:30 pm on Monday 21 August at Griffith Regional Theatre and/or make a written submission before 4 pm, 29 September.

The plan was drafted by external consultants following months of community consultation. It outlines the strengths and weaknesses of Griffith’s four main cultural attractions – the art gallery, library, theatre and museum (Pioneer Park) – and canvasses ways each could be improved. It also considers what else could be done to liven up the overall art and entertainment scene in the town.

One idea suggested in the plan is to expand the library into the neighbouring historic edifice at 239 Banna Avenue, commonly known as the clock building.

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The clock building was constructed in 1933 and originally housed the state-owned Rural Bank of NSW. It was purchased in 2015 by Griffith City Council, which has leased it to the owners of popular eatery Zecca Handmade Italian since then.

“The clock building (Zecca’s tenancy) was a very good investment for council to make,” the master plan states. “It would be very wise to retain it to enable future library expansion.”

The next steps/actions suggested are to: “Develop a brief and undertake a test fit for the clock building (Zecca’s tenancy) to confirm its suitability for accommodating the future needs (dedicated local history spaces and exhibitions, areas for genealogy, multipurpose and programmable spaces, a business hub with meeting rooms, a space that could be set up as a recording studio, a better dedicated VR space)”.

Councillor Jenny Ellis, who chairs the Cultural Precinct Masterplan Committee, stressed that the plan was about long-term directions and there was no threat to local businesses.

“The big thing that people have to realise is the master plan is looking at between five and 20 years into the future,” she said. “This isn’t about instant change, it’s about how our community is going to grow. The clock building purchase was very forward thinking, this is about having a resource in the future. At the moment, it is a good revenue source for council.”

The master plan also states the “current art gallery building and facilities are not adequate to serve the current needs of the community and region; a purpose-built new art gallery is needed to meet both the current and future needs of the community and region”.

Two councillors and resident in hall

Councillor Jenny Ellis, councillor Shari Blumer and Sue Fordham at a Griffith City Council Community Opinion Group forum. Photo: Griffith City Council.

The plan outlines five possible new gallery locations, and nominates the two “best choices”, which are at opposite ends of Banna Avenue – next to the current Griffith Visitor’s Centre or next to the Griffith Regional Theatre.

“It would be great if people came to the meeting on Monday night,” Cr Ellis said. “We’ll look at the five options and the two that have the most merit. Connection to the main street is something that came out loud and clear from the community. We want the new gallery to be a gathering place and real art hub. Having it in the main street is important.”

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Cr Ellis said she’d like to see a multipurpose art gallery site that could host other types of functions.

Councillor Shari Blumer, also on the committee, agreed.

“I would love to bring more events and conferences to town,” she said. “We could have a premium event space, with breakout rooms for meetings. It could also host weddings and wakes.

“We are missing a cultural hub because of our distance … this could really showcase Griffith.”

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