Although many are under the impression that Manly Council has agreed to keep the Whistler Street car park and upgrade the Library - that was last month. Once again, things have changed.
Following on from a resolution moved by Clr Steve Pickering and Clr James Griffin an Expression of Interest (EOI) progress has commenced for the "opportunity to enter into a long term lease (the maximum term offered is 99 years) with Council to redevelop the strategic site .... generally bounded by Whistler Street, Market Lane and Library Place, Manly". Submissions close 12th June. 2015.
(Update: 12/6/15 .... At the EOI closing this afternoon, Council received 3 submissions to the EOI for Whistler Street Village Centre Redevelopment and 12 submissions to the EOI for Design and Construct Car Park Beneath Manly Oval.)
Respondents are invited to submit their interests and offers for at least two development scenarios. They are:
1. Redevelopment of the subject site in totality, which will include the building of a new library and offices for Council and in placed in Council's ownership under a separate stratum and with a total useable floor area of approximately 3,000 sq m.
2. Redevelopment of the subject site with the retention of and adding floor space to the existing library.
Although the EOI outlines that submissions should comply with Council's planning controls many believe that to provide the return on investment needed for such a redevelopment that developers would have to 'push the envelope' and a much higher building would need to be approved (or won in the Land & Environment Court).
The fundamental question still remains - why is Council continuing to push a project, which is linked to the creation of the Oval car park, when residents have clearly stated they don't want it and want to retain the more convenient location for parking. In addition, independent due diligence reports have clearly confirmed that the site would only be viable for developers if Council made the site suitable for the "biggest and best" use scenario
The Manly 2015 Plan is ambitious to say the least and with Capital Works expected to cost around $100m in the next four years to deliver a number of projects, alarm bells are starting to ring.
Top of the list is the proposed car park under Manly Oval which KPMG have costed around $40m (against Council's estimate of $33m). Next is the demolition of the Whistler Street car park and 18 year old Library with part of the site to be sold to developers for retail and apartments and the Library rebuilt (add another $35m). Then you have $15m for public domain works and a further $15m for the upgrade of the Manly Swim Centre.
But is this ambitious 'Vision' a potential nightmare for Manly ratepayers. The oval car park development in particular is a high risk proposal. The Council's revenue-generating figures are based on 600 cars, every day of the year, paying $15 each ..... and if you include the two hour free parking option, then the car park will barely cover its operating costs, let alone pay-off the debt.
An important point to remember - Council's have unlimited liability, as the ratepayers of these Council's have discovered:
Does Manly really need to be redeveloped? We don't think so! So much can be done to revitilise the area for a more modest , low-risk budget. Our 'Local's Plan' is just one approach. Why can't Council present another option - that is what could we do if we kept the Whistler Street car park & Library? I know a number of local architects who have plenty of great ideas.
What would you do?
It is supposed to be a pleasant plaza with the library at its core (attracting some 35,000 visitors a month) and a variety of shops and cafes spreading out into the laneway.
Instead it has became the home to 41 garbage bins, permanently stored at the back of the shops, including 16 bins belonging to the recently refurshied New Ivanhoe Hotel - it's a disgrace.
The rules are that shop-owners either have a garbage room or are required to keep their bins on their premises, except when a collection is due.
In addition, each morning this so-called pedestrian-shared zone becomes ''dodge the garbage trucks'. With three commercial contractors AND the Council truck collecting rubbish typically at 9 - 10am most mornings.
A motion moved by Clr Candy Bingham was passed at the April Council meeting that a Management Plan would be created to address the issue.
Do you visit this area? What do you think? See Good for Manly's vision for this area here.
Candy Bingham, Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.