By Dina Amin
Bayside City Council have recently developed a new initiative to help activate the Brighton Cultural Precinct — an area in Brighton which boasts several arts and culture services. In an effort to encourage patrons and residents of the area to stay awhile, the Council has put forth a new hospitality initiative — a cafe that will operate within the former Brighton courthouse.
“There’s a very strong push in Bayside that we get much stronger utilisation out of our buildings…we had a building (the courthouse) that wasn’t being very well utilised and it was really on us to find a purpose for it,” explains Bayside Council mayor Felicity Frederico.
The Brighton Cultural Precinct was established roughly 10 years ago as a means of involving the community in various arts and cultural activities. The precinct consists of the Brighton Town Hall – which holds the Brighton Historical Society, the BACC gallery and the Brighton Theatre Company – the Brighton library and the former courthouse.
“We wanted a different numbers of arts and cultural offerings in the same place…to provide lots of opportunities for residents to enjoy various different kinds of activities — they can connect with different groups and organisations,” adds Mark Patterson, the Council’s Family and Cultural Services Manager.
The cafe initiative supports the Council’s objective to increase visitation to the Brighton Cultural Precinct. “There’s really no hospitality in that Precinct. If you go up Wilson street there’s the old milk bar which is becoming a small cafe, but apart from that there’s nothing else,” says Frederico.
Frederico predicts that the cafe would be frequented predominantly by the parents of local schools Firbank, Brighton Grammar and Brighton Primary School. Both Frederico and Patterson agree that the cafe could also be a rest stop for people spending a morning or afternoon in the Precinct.
The cafe initiative was only one idea of utilisation that came from a recent updated report. The 2015 Brighton Cultural Precinct report identifies a number of strategies which could be implemented to encourage increased visitation — the cafe being one of them.
“The report was really looking at how to improve the utilisation of the Brighton Cultural Precinct and also improve the activation — by activation we mean people spending time in the Precinct rather than just coming to the Library and then leaving without doing anything else in the area,” Patterson explains. The report was born out of various internal conversations with stakeholders and partners.
Another strategy that came from the report was the implementation of appropriate signage.
“Pedestrian signs could be improved — it can be difficult to understand what’s located where and it can be difficult to navigate one’s way around the Precinct,” says Patterson.
“If the cafe idea didn’t work out we would certainly look at utilisation of that building (former courthouse) in some shape or form, as long as it was keeping within the theme of the Precinct,” states Frederico.
Frederico also stresses the importance of remaining sympathetic to the community. “It won’t be a cafe with loud music until 2am — it will be respectful of its environment.”
The development of the cafe is still yet to come; an expression of interest has gone out and community consultation will commence in April.
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