Katoomba Civic Centre changes planned

Katoomba town centre: Usually empty apart from people walking through to Coles, the carpark or the Cultural Centre from Katoomba St.
Katoomba town centre: Usually empty apart from people walking through to Coles, the carpark or the Cultural Centre from Katoomba St.

Everyone knows it as that empty and unused bit in the middle of town, connecting Katoomba Street with Coles, the Cultural Centre and a carpark.

But with a bit of imagination, and thanks to a federal government grant, Katoomba Town Centre may finally be transformed.

Empty, soulless.

Empty, soulless.

Residents didn't hold back when asked last year at drop-in workshops and in surveys what they thought of the current set-up.

Asked to rate elements of the space from one (surviving) to five (thriving) only three of 24 features rated higher than a one.

Indoor facilities, community focus, pop-up activation and integration with the town got "one" in the activation category.

Considering businesses, tenancy mix, frontages, maintenance, vibrancy were all stuck at the "surviving" level (though the Little Paris cafe was cited as a key anchor business that drew people in).

In the beauty stakes, there was not much to be pleased about, with public art, public furniture, maintenance, fixtures, cleanliness and vibrancy ranked one out of five.

There was cause for hope, however, in the area's function, with its public furniture (specifically the sandstone seating and stairs) rating 3/5 and lighting 2/5, though infrastructure, signage, maintenance and access in this category scored the lowest rank.

Vertical gardens, character lighting, public art such as murals and sculptures were all suggested as possible improvements.

The old library: Could be transformed into a co-workers hub.

The old library: Could be transformed into a co-workers hub.

In an ideal world there would also be eating options as well as cultural activities such as entertainment and events, temporary exhibitions,community and family activities.

The workshops raised other issues including:

  • Key infrastructure related to drainage and maintenance (the council-owned premises have a history of leaking);
  • Cleanliness, directly connected to bird droppings which is linked to people feeding birds in the area;
  • The area is regarded as dark, gloomy and dead;
  • It is used as a thoroughfare, rather than a destination;
  • A lack of culture;
  • Lack of signage to inform people of what exists there.

One of the suggestions consistently raised was having a co-working space, which council is now preparing for in the old library space.

With $750,000 from the building better regions grant (matched by council), work will soon start on converting the library into a working space which can be rented out. Initial work, due to start within the next few months, will include fit out of partitions, desks and lockers, installation of heating/cooling, computer ports, security and signage.

This will be combined with some of the beautification ideas which came out of the community workshop/survey, including art installations, better toilet facilities, outdoor furniture, landscaping and performance infrastructure.