Friday, May 30, 2014

Willow Court six-monthly update

THE chairman of the Willow Court Conservation Committee, David Llewllyn MHA, has provided the following six-monthly report to the council. It makes for interesting reading and I am so pleased with the recent progress that has been made on the site.

Willow Court Conservation Committee
Six month report: September 2013 to March 2014


That the committee approves release of the third six month report to the Derwent Valley Council, covering the period September 2013 to March 2014. 


The terms of reference require a report to the Derwent Valley Council at least six-monthly, on progress regarding the ongoing work of the committee.  The first report from the committee covered the period from August to 2012 to February 2013, and included information about the initial development of the committee.  The second report covered the period March to August 2013.  This report covers the period September 2013 to February 2014.  

Committee Meeting - September 12, 2013
• Continuing discussion regarding status of committee as a sub-committee of Council and reporting requirements
• Draft fundraising plan presented for discussion and finalising
• Discussion regarding curtilage and land title area for Frescati, in response to correspondence with the Friends of Frescati
• Noting new security structure to be located adjacent to Frescati, on the Avenue frontage
• Noting discussions with Frank Knight concerning options for anchor tenants for Alonnah, Carlton and Occupational Therapy buildings
• Confirmation of implementation requirements for The Barracks Precinct works plan
• Discussion regarding proposed Ghost tours proposal
• Discussion regarding increasing communication with the general public through release of minutes and media releases
• Noting request for public input in to Development Application
• Finalisation of second six month report to Council
• Locks to north and central wings of The Barracks installed 
• Demolition of false ceiling in Bronte
• Discussion with Friends of Frescati regarding restoration of the pond and care of the grape vine
• Tour of site with Michael Court, the architect responsible for the 1970s restoration works at The Barracks

Committee Meeting - October 10, 2013
• Continued discussion regarding status of committee as a sub-committee of Council, reporting requirements, and committee membership
• Adoption of amended Fundraising Plan
• Discussion regarding landscape works proposal by Friends of Frescati
• Support for ABC Television (Adelaide) story on Willow Court
• Continued discussion regarding Development Application promotion
• Meeting with THC works committee
• Meeting with Jim Gandy, Engineer, regarding Frescati chimney
• Removal of environment waste The Barracks and Bronte rooms
• Asbestos identification works for commercial precinct buildings
• Discussions with Derwent Valley Youth Future Action Team (D’FAT) regarding future joint grant applications

Committee Meeting - November 14, 2013
• Confirmation of DA approval
• Continued discussion regarding status of committee as a sub-committee of Council, reporting requirements, and committee membership, noting the current committee as an expert based committee formed under an MOU
• Confirmation of call for nominations for community representative positions
• Noting continued discussions supporting work proposals with Friends of Frescati
• Noting correspondence with State and Federal politicians inviting support for the work of the committee and familiarisation tours of the Willow Court complex
• Support for removal of graffiti from Humphrey Street wall
• Discussion on options for use of the Barracks Precinct after completion of works, including markets, festivals, scouting events, theatrical events, social events, and fostering small business access to the new space
• Noting of the importance of the membership of the General Manager on the committee, particularly in relation to fostering communication with Councillors
• Noting professional photography of derelict buildings 
• Noting of workshop and tour with Councillors
• Noting of participation in DVC Tourism Strategy meeting with consultants and representative groups

Committee Meeting - December 12, 2013
• Formation of a sub-committee to undertake an assessment of nomination received for community representative positions
• Discussion regarding meeting with Friends of Frescati and options for urgent works at the site
• Discussion supporting involvement of Friends of Willow Court in launching the newly developed precinct
• Further discussion regarding fencing of Frescati boundary with Tony Ellis development
• Noting the start of the successful Arts Tasmania Grant project to assess the condition, curatorial and interpretation potential of items in storage from Willow Court
• Noting the first stage of work on The Barracks windows has been completed; nineteen windows were repaired; a second stage of window works on five critical windows in the pavilions is required, but has been deferred pending final costing for the full planned works
• Noting professional photography of derelict buildings is ongoing
• Noting work on removing the cement render from the verandah plinth is proceeding, with the majority of cement and failed render removed; a poultice has been applied to the southern wing to draw out moisture and salts, ahead of new render; some experimentation with render mixtures and colour using local aggregate and soils has been undertaken
• Noting two doors have been removed and repaired off-site; this work was a trial to test repair options and help to assess likely full costs
• Noting the request for tender for a head contractor resulted in four submissions; two submissions were selected for further evaluation
• Discussion regarding development of interpretation for the site
• Discussion with Matt Hill and Chair of Tidy Town Committee regarding removal of graffiti from Humphrey Street wall

[No meeting was held in January 2014]

Committee Meeting - February 13, 2014
• Discussion regarding nominations received for the community representative positions
• Continued discussion regarding Friends of Frescati and options for urgent works at the site
• Discussion regarding launch event scheduling options
• Discussion regarding draft brochure for interpretation of the Barracks Precinct
• Discussion regarding security concerns for Frescati
• Noting work on The Barracks is underway: in addition to window repairs, works are almost complete to door repairs, verandah rendering, and verandah carpentry and painting; works have also begun on the interior of the south wing, including carpentry and preparing the walls for painting.  
• Noting repair to the remainder of the windows in the two eastern pavilions, with work probably beginning late February or early March
• Noting the request for tender for a head contractor is subject to ongoing negotiations  
• Noting Linda Clark and Chris Tassel have been engaged to implement the Small Museums Grant
• Noting a section of roofing iron has dislodged on Carlton and will need to be repaired
• Noting the Federal Government has agreed to extend the deadline for expenditure of grant funds and completion of their components of the project to the end of April 2014
• Noting tour of the site with Eric Hutchinson MHR

Chairman’s commentary: 
The third six months of the committee’s effort has again been focussed on progressing physical works at The Barracks precinct.  The committee continues to balance the competing demands between physical works, fundraising, interpretation, and community involvement.  

It is our intention, that in mid-2014, The Barracks Precinct will be open to the public.  The Committee is focusing the majority of funds on conservation of The Barracks, redevelopment of Bronte, and the establishment of a community area within the old precinct.  The Development Application for the works was approved by Council in November 2013.   

Accessible from The Avenue, the building forecourts will be newly landscaped, with gravel paths and open grassed areas, leading to the newly restored Barracks.  The Barracks will be the focus of interests.  Locals and visitors will be able to tour the forecourt of the 1830s building, whilst the southern wing will be made available for various community activities: some interpretation, gallery space, a place to show off local and regional produce and highlight local and regional events.  Bronte will also be available for community activities, with the Bronte main ward open for large and small functions alike. 

As I have noted, Willow Court has often acted as an inspiration for the community, featuring prominently in many strategic and economic development plans for the region. The reuse and preservation of the precinct is essential from an historic and social point of view. 

Not only will the project provide employment (both through actual job creation, and the flow-on impact for surrounding businesses), it will complement the adjacent private and community spaces, and the construction and building work will provide an immediate boost to the area.  Employment will be created during the redevelopment stage, with the possibility of some building and heritage skill based training also being undertaken on the site.  

The project to prepare the Development Application for the conservation and presentation of Bronte and The Barracks and landscape within the boundary of the precinct, for future uses by the Derwent Valley Council and community, was awarded to Xsquared Architects, working with Inspiring Place and the Centre for Heritage at Oatlands.  The Xsquared works plan provided an exciting and innovative response to the Committee’s concept plan.  Xsquared was selected from some 12 submissions received under an EOI process.   Xsquared continue to help deliver the works by supporting the Senior Project Manager.  

I would like to note my thanks to the Xsquared team, noting in particular the efforts of Peter Scott, Brad Williams and Jerry De Gryse, for their continuing help in developing and delivering the works.  

What has been happening at the site during the last couple of months?  As with any project of this nature, a lot of time and energy is being devoted to planning and detailing the works, which doesn’t      immediately translate into visible activity on the site.

The Development Application (DA) and heritage permit are now secured, but tenders and negotiations with contractors for substantial elements of the works are continuing.  Getting the sequence of works right — between conservation, visitor access and services — has been organised, but is an ongoing management task.

If you walk past the site along The Avenue today you will see a very active construction site. 
• Scaffolding has gone up around The Barracks for roof plumbing and painting works
• Landscape works have begun in the Barracks forecourt and along the access route to The Avenue
• The Barracks windows and doors have been uncovered and restored to working order
• The Barracks verandah posts have been repaired and painted and the base rendered in preparation for lime washing

Work has also begun inside the south wing of The Barracks. 
• Several rooms have been selected to be opened up for visitors. 
• A considerable amount of carpentry, masonry and rendering work has already been               completed
• One room has been lime washed already

The scaffolding has been up around The Barracks for about four weeks, but will then be erected around Bronte in preparation for roofing works there.  Work has also been substantially completed on an inventory of artefacts held in storage, supported by an Arts Tasmania grant.  The focus of this work is on understanding what has been collected, how to keep it in good condition, and what items will help tell a story for visitors. In addition, the committee has continued to look into the future viability and sustainable re-use of the remaining buildings and land owned by council.  

During this period, the committee has:
• Finalised the fundraising plan to help guide future effort on the site
• Continued its lobbying for anchor tenants for Carlton, Alonnah and Occupational Therapy
• Continued to seek funds and ideas for the conservation and re-use of Frescati
• Managed repairs and accessed threats to Frescati and Carlton, 
• Assisted in the removal of graffiti
• Fostered media opportunities associated with the site
• Promoted and hosted tours of the site for Federal and State politicians
• Worked closely with other Council and community organisations, supporting the initiatives of the Friends of Frescati, Derwent Valley RAFT, and the tourism and growth strategy for the Derwent Valley.

Whilst currently available funds are fully committed, there will be much more effort to perform to secure and promote the community use of the conserved and redeveloped precinct.  Works will be substantially complete by late April – although some works will inevitably continue till June.  The Committee and Council now need to put their minds to promoting and securing the use of the precinct by the community, not least through an opening event to re-introduce the community to the site. 

David Llewellyn
Willow Court Conservation Committee

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