WITH work due to start on the Horsham Town Hall and art gallery redevelopment next week, Mail-Times chief-of-staff Carly Werner has delved into the archives to revisit the highs and lows of Horsham's biggest and most controversial project to date.
March: Horsham Rural City Council announces it has applied for up to $6 million through the Federal Government's $550-million Regional and Local Communities Infrastructure Program to redevelop the town hall, with an estimated project cost of $12 million.
May: Council receives $5 million from the Federal Government towards a ground-breaking performing arts centre.
November: Council releases a concept design for the redevelopment, outlining a 515 fixed-seat auditorium and separate function room that can seat 500 people, less than the existing main hall capacity of more than 900.
December: Mayor Michael Ryan hits back at public criticism of the redevelopment, describing it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
May: Horsham architect Cameron Reid presents council with a new design to keep and refurbish the town hall and build a 511-seat auditorium.
June: A group of more than 20 people plan to object to council's planning permit application for redevelopment through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Their objection follows councillors voting to proceed with the redevelopment plan.
August: The redevelopment attracts the largest number of objections for any building plan in council's history with 207. The National Trust of Victoria then urges council to preserve the hall as one of the last surviving examples of art-deco architecture in Victoria.
September: Council rejects Cr David Grimble's bid to rescind planning approval for the $14.5-million hall project.
October: McKenzie Creek farmer Neville McIntyre will stand alone in the fight to save the hall as the sole objector to the redevelopment. Mr McIntyre was the only person to lodge an appeal with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after a working group representing more than 500 objectors withdrew from the process.
April: VCAT hosts a hearing on the redevelopment in Horsham. VCAT later rejects council's application to redevelop the hall. Later in April council announces it will consider building a new performing arts centre behind the hall and art gallery.
June: The hall wins heritage listing following a Heritage Victoria monthly council meeting.
July: A government adviser warns Horsham could lose up to $10 million set aside for a performing arts centre unless the project begins soon.
October: The council will have until December to provide the State Government with final plans for the redevelopment after councillors accept a recommendation from the redevelopment project control group shortlisting two options. There is a community consultation session in the city later that month, and residents are still divided over a preferred site.
November: All six councillors eligible to vote formally adopt the town hall as the preferred site for the redevelopment.
March: Council's project control group presents the concept design for the Horsham Town Hall and Horsham Regional Art Gallery redevelopment at two community consultations.
May: A schematic design for the redevelopment is unveiled. The design shows what the Pynsent Street facade, featuring a cafe and performing arts centre, will look like. Heritage Victoria representatives visit the town hall.
July: Council endorses a $17-million design for the redevelopment. The project falls within budget. The March estimate for the project was $19.4 million.
September: Council approves a planning permit for the development.
October: Council receives notice that two people have objected to the redevelopment and the project will go to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a second time. Cr Gary Bird says the objectors are 'holding the city to ransom'.
December: Council receives notice from Heritage Victoria that its request for a heritage permit has been successful.
February: The redevelopment will go ahead after VCAT approves a planning permit. The redevelopment will feature a foyer connecting Wilson and Pynsent streets, a 531-seat theatre, a refurbished art gallery and a new 77-seat cafe.
June: Council delays finalising funding for the $18.7-million redevelopment until after construction has started. The redevelopment is due to start in August.
November: The project cost blows out to more than $19.6 million after council approves a $423,271 budget increase. Horsham Mayor David Grimble says rushed decisions were partly to blame for the cost blow-out.