Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Community centre's $20m price tag

From today's SMH - more later.....

Sunanda Creagh Urban Affairs Reporter

THE City of Sydney's plan to build a community centre in Surry Hills, which has exceeded its original budget by more than $13 million, was approved by the council's finance committee last night. The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, used her casting vote at the special meeting. The centre will include childcare facilities, a library and meeting rooms, and will cost as much as $19.9 million. The council's 2006-09 corporate plan budgeted for only $3.6 million. The Deputy Mayor, Chris Harris, said he was told that incorporating green sustainable principles into the building had driven up the cost. "But sustainability shouldn't cost that much. I thought it was crazy it's gone up so much," Cr Harris said. "I think this project is very, very important to Clover Moore because this is the heart of her support in Bligh."

Cr Tony Pooley, the former mayor of the defunct South Sydney Council, said the centre was first planned by his old council. "The Surry Hills community centre started off under South Sydney. Our report in March 2003 recommended the facility would cost $2.2 million. It's just inconceivable how much it's gone up," he said. "It's a bigger complex than South Sydney envisaged. The green stuff is good and there's an extra floor being dug underground but even since we knew about that it's doubled."

Councillors have asked staff to provide more detail on the cost blowout, but so far had been denied it, Cr Shayne Mallard said.Cr Moore said there was no point comparing old and new project plans. "Previous figures were based on a different project proposed by the former council, or preliminary assessments of the current design."

Richard Francis-Jones, an architect with the firm that designed the building, Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp, said sustainable building principles should not be blamed for the rising cost of the Surry Hills centre. "To say that that number is due to sustainability concerns is completely wrong. Generally speaking, if one is trying to produce a sustainable building, it may involve additional expenditure but in terms of
whole of life costs it's generally less." Work on the centre, in Crown Street, was due to begin this month but has been delayed by councillors fighting over the cost.

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