Accessibility the key to Willoughby Civic Place redevelopment

Willoughby City Council is set to begin redeveloping its 12,500 square metre Civic Place precinct, situated in its commercial centre of Chatswood. After seven years of consultation with the community, architects and external consultants, construction of the project is due to begin in coming months.

Located just eight kilometres north of the Sydney CBD, Chatswood is home to one of Sydney’s suburban skyscraper clusters. Civic Place is the most valuable public land owned by Council, currently housing the Willoughby City Library, the Civic Centre, retail shops and a public carpark.

At a total project cost of $150 million, the redevelopment of the area will turn it into the heart and soul of Willoughby. As well as providing a concert hall, theatre and rehearsal spaces to the under resourced Sydney arts landscape; safe community gathering, eating and shopping places; and a library three times larger than the current Willoughby City Library, Civic Place will greatly encourage economic growth for Chatswood and the North Shore area.

City of Willoughby General Manger, John Owen, said the Civic Place development responds to Sydney’s Metropolitan strategy by providing a range of arts facilities that accommodate audiences and performers at every level.

“While Civic Place provides superb performance stages for local and international artists, it will also accommodate entry level performers and prices,” he said.

City of Willoughby Mayor, Councillor Pat Reilly, said Council called on experts from the access industry to ensure the entire community can make use of the precinct.

“One in five people within the northern Sydney region identify as having a disability,” he said. “Civic Place will offer the region superbly designed, flexible and functionally excellent performance spaces that excel equally in accessible qualities, offering a level of accessibility above all other current facilities in Australia.

“Representatives from a wide range of organisations in the disability sector acknowledged the high level of accessibility Chatswood Civic Place will deliver for all members of the community and provided suggestions to ensure the facility will further excel in all areas of the building’s operation.

“Providing visual warning signals and written captions to deaf people in the case of an emergency, employment opportunities and Easy English signage and marketing material were some of the areas discussed.

“Chatswood Civic Place will provide a truly accessible facility that not only addresses physical barriers but policy, management and communication barriers as well.”

With construction due to commence shortly, Council held a closing celebration for the existing Civic Centre in September.

All residents of Willoughby and surrounding areas were invited to attend the farewell, which provided attendees with the opportunity to reminisce about the wonderful musicals, plays, ceremonies and performances they saw or were part of since the centre opened in 1972.

Construction is expected to be completed by late 2010.

For further information contact Linda Cardew, Civic Place Project Director, on (02) 9777 1015.