Geelong Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - SHANE FOWLES

THE City of Greater Gee­long is pur­su­ing a bold plan to build it­self a new $100 mil­lion high-rise head­quar­ters. The tower at 137 Mercer St, which would host 17,000 square me­tres of floor space, would ri­val Work­Safe’s 14-storey com­plex on nearby Malop St.

THE City of Greater Gee­long is pur­su­ing a bold plan to build it­self a new $100 mil­lion high­rise head­quar­ters.

The coun­cil has cho­sen a site op­po­site the Gee­long po­lice sta­tion and wants it open by 2022.

The high-rise base at 137 Mercer St, which would host 17,000sq m of floorspace, would ri­val Work­Safe’s 14-storey com­plex on nearby Malop St.

How­ever the rev­o­lu­tion­ary project will need to be ap­proved by the in­com­ing coun­cil, which will be elected next month.

Coun­cil staff will aim to se­cure fund­ing to be­gin de­sign works in the 2018-19 year.

That would al­low a tran­si­tion to the new build­ing by mid-2022, when the leases ex­pire on the coun­cil’s big­gest of­fices on Brougham and Co­rio streets.

The coun­cil’s white-col­lar staff are now spread across nine cen­tral lo­ca­tions, oc­cu­py­ing a to­tal area of 12,480sq m.

While five of the prop­er­ties are in pub­lic hands, the coun­cil rents fa­cil­i­ties at Co­rio, Brougham and Mercer streets and in New­town.

Fi­nance and strat­egy di­rec­tor Peter An­der­son said that spread­ing staff across the var­i­ous sites led to a loss of pro­duc­tiv­ity, forced du­pli­ca­tion of some ser­vices and in­creased com­mu­ni­ca­tion and IT costs.

“Op­er­at­ing over nine lo­ca­tions has, over the years, not only proven ad­min­is­tra­tively dif­fi­cult it has proven to be an in­ef­fi­cient and costly op­tion,” he said.

The coun­cil pays $2.05 mil­lion an­nu­ally in rent but the bill is ex­pected to in­crease to $2.78 mil­lion by July, 2022.

Eco­nomic mod­el­ling has shown that if the sta­tus quo is main­tained, ac­com­mo­da­tion costs would top $72 mil­lion dur­ing the next 20 years.

The move to a cen­tral lo­ca­tion was first raised in 1998, but has only gained mo­men­tum in the past year.

Cen­tral­i­sa­tion was thrust back on the agenda by the State Gov­ern­ment-ini­ti­ated Com­mis­sion of In­quiry, which ex­posed a poor cul­ture and led to the sack­ing of all coun­cil­lors.

The in­quiry called for coun- cil’s de­part­ments to be con­sol­i­dated in one cen­tral lo­ca­tion, to unify the or­gan­i­sa­tion, in­crease ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity and to re­lease its sur­plus as­sets.

Coun­cil staff have since re­viewed 11 po­ten­tial sites, be­fore set­tling on the 4655sq m site at 137 Mercer St, which the coun­cil bought a decade ago.

The site, which is now used as a carpark, was cho­sen be­cause of its rel­a­tively low cost and lo­ca­tion.

Mr An­der­son said it pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a stronger link be­tween the train sta­tion and cen­tral busi­ness district.

Early es­ti­mates are that the coun­cil would re­quire 15,000sq m of floorspace, which is com­pa­ra­ble to Work­Safe’s head­quar­ters.

A fur­ther 2200sq m is also be­ing con­sid­ered for a child­care fa­cil­ity and other ser­vices, to meet grow­ing res­i­den­tial base in the CBD.

If the pro­posal pro­ceeds, the coun­cil’s new base would join a host of com­mer­cial high-rise build­ings that are re­defin­ing the city’s sky­line.

Ad­min­is­tra­tors will on Tues­day night con­sider the plan, in­clud­ing more de­tailed anal­y­sis on the size and de­sign of the build­ing and pedes­trian and traf­fic im­pli­ca­tions.

They will also con­sider an in­ter­nal rec­om­men­da­tion to ex­plore fi­nanc­ing op­tions, be­fore a re­port on po­ten­tial fund- ing of the project is de­liv­ered by March. That means that with in­com­ing coun­cil sup­port the project would be con­sid­ered in the 2018-19 bud­get.

“There is a three-year de­sign and con­struct pe­riod for a new ac­com­mo­da­tion and civic build­ing,” Mr An­der­son said.

“It will be nec­es­sary to con­tinue to ad­vance the busi­ness case and fund­ing con­sid­er­a­tions for this project so coun­cil can be in a po­si­tion to avoid the im­pend­ing lease re­newals.”

Pic­ture: ALI­SON WYND

GEE­LONG ON THE RISE: Gee­long has ze­roed in on this Mercer St site for its pro­posed high-rise head­quaters.

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