Community house in demand

Megan Williams looks over her original 2009 feasibility study for a proposed community house in...
Megan Williams looks over her original 2009 feasibility study for a proposed community house in Wanaka, ahead of presenting the results from her latest study, which shows strong community support remains for the project. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Nearly 70 community organisations, social service agencies and arts and performance groups have confirmed their interest in being part of a proposed community house for Wanaka, in the project's latest feasibility study.

The renewed show of support brings the multipurpose community facility a significant step closer, although there are still resource consent and funding requirements to meet.

St Columba's Anglican Church and Community Networks Wanaka began developing the idea of a community house several years ago, after the Anglican Church Dunedin Diocesan Trust Board offered a 50-year lease over land it owns on McDougall St - between the vicarage and the church - for a peppercorn rent. Megan Williams, who was contracted to carry out both the feasibility studies for the project, said the original study three years ago uncovered about 25 prospective tenants.

While she ''didn't dig as deep'' the first time around, the significant growth in the number of interested parties shown in the new study was still an ''amazing'' outcome.

Ms Williams said the building would be able to cater for all the groups as only some of them would use it daily. Others would be there on a weekly or periodic basis. The bulk of the groups come under the umbrella of the expanding Community Networks organisation - which would be the anchor tenant - such as the food bank, Strengthening Families and the Cancer Society. However, a diverse range of other keen community house users had come to light.

There was ''big interest'' from the arts sector, from performance groups, and from other groups which would be displaced when the old Presbyterian church hall in Tenby St closed.

''The beauty of the community house is ... it's going to be the cheapest facility in town because of the generosity of the Anglican parish,'' Ms Williams said.

''We wouldn't be able to build a community house if we had to purchase the land in central Wanaka.''

The only cost to groups would be a proportion of the running costs of the facility.

''It provides a very affordable space for groups to use and also to meet each other and mingle and collaborate.

''There'll be permanent people, so it will be a busy hub.''

The Wanaka Community House Trust was set up a year ago to organise the provision of a Wanaka community house, to maximise the delivery of social services in the Upper Clutha by making rental accommodation affordable for non-profit and charitable community organisations and government organisations. An initial concept plan and drawings for the 665sq m building were completed some time ago.

Ms Williams said she would present her recommendations from the second study to the trust early this year. Then prospective user groups would liaise with the designer to ensure the building would cater to their specific requirements. Resource consent and funding applications would then be made. It was hoped construction would start in early 2014.

The original estimated cost for the facility was $1.9 million. The right to occupy the land was estimated at a further $600,000, giving the project an overall value of $2.5 million. However, that figure was provided three years ago and would be updated in accordance with the revised design plans.

The recently-completed $2.6 million Alexandra Community House in central Alexandra will open early next year.

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