RESPECTED Bathurst architect Henry Bialowas has outlined his grand vision to redevelop the historic TAFE building on William Street into a performing arts centre for all of regional NSW.
And Mr Bialowas, who designed Bathurst's bicentennial flagstaff, says it is an achievable - and financially viable - goal if carried out as a staged project over time.
The first step would see Mitchell Conservatorium move in, providing much-needed space as it is now being squeezed out of its current home in the west wing of Bathurst Court House.
The NSW Department of Communities and Justice confirmed in December that it would need to resume space being occupied by the conservatorium as it seeks to upgrade and expand the court house complex.
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Mr Bialowas' plan also provides an alternative use for the building after Charles Sturt University abandoned its plans to create a presence in the Bathurst CBD, but he still wants to see CSU involved.
"The MitCon should be the infant heart of a growing future performing arts centre of excellence," he says. "This is not a fanciful dream but a realistic assessment of the needs of a growing community and its many gifted people, reflected in council's 2036 cultural vision.
"A regional centre for a range of performing arts brings its own rewards. Charles Sturt University should still have an important and financially viable role by putting the MitCon under its wing to provide the much-needed degree courses, which at present are being met via the university at Rockhampton."
Mr Bialowas acknowledges it would be an expensive process to redevelop the building, but says the job could be done in stages to spread out the cost.
"I firmly believed the MitCon could progressively occupy the former TAFE buildings in relatively easy stages at nominal costs," he writes.
"For example, the provision of disabled person's facilities can certainly be achieved; much of the ground floor is already accessible; one judiciously placed lift could serve many levels and access the first floor and its 300-seat performance space."
Mitchell Conservatorium executive director Dr Graham Sattler has enthusiastically embraced the proposal as a long-term option.
In the short term, MitCon will move some of its programs to Walshaw Hall, next to the Anglican Cathedral, but will eventually need an entirely new home.
"I would say that in the long term [the TAFE building] could present a really logical and beneficial outcome for the conservatorium and our ability to continue to serve the community," Dr Sattler said.
"The building's original intention and design was as an educational facility so it certainly makes sense."
Dr Sattler conceded that funding the project would not be easy.
"We don't have access to significant capital expenditure funding. Any funding for infrastructure is always a real challenge," he said.
Mayor Bobby Bourke also welcomed Mr Bialowas' proposal, saying it was time to find a solution for the TAFE building.
"I think there's room for what Henry wants to do but I would also like to see some sort of commercial development so it doesn't become a rates burden," he said.
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