Creative and Community Facility at 33 Saxon Street, Brunswick
33 Saxon Street is in the heart of Brunswick, part of the Civic and Cultural Precinct and the Brunswick Design District. The site includes a large old school building, a heritage house, and public open space. Council purchased the site in 2010.
What’s happening now
The site is well known and loved as Siteworks and Blak Dot Gallery, which have operated since 2016.
Siteworks operates as a ‘low cost and low tech’ community and creative facility. Low-cost spaces are available for hourly, daily and weekly bookings. In addition, there is a ‘resident community’ of rent-subsidised artists and creative commercial tenants.
Blak Dot Gallery
Blak Dot Gallery is a contemporary indigenous-run art gallery and performance space that showcases artworks from global indigenous cultures.
Blak Dot is an important arts institution that has built a strong indigenous creative presence in Brunswick and has a brand and audience that reaches beyond Merri-bek, across Australia.
The activity on site has helped provide the blueprint for how Council and the community envision its future. With help from the community, Council has now determined the long-term use and development of the site.
33 Saxon Street was originally a school. Minor works have been made to the site, but in its current form it is not fit for purpose and it would be difficult to accommodate all the uses endorsed by Council within the current built form. Redevelopment, with retention of Sherwood House, rather than renovation or minor works, was the option most supported in the community consultation.
Redevelopment of 33 Saxon Street is a landmark project that will be a well-designed, socially inclusive community asset in the heart of Brunswick. It will support a variety of community, creative and commercial uses, and respond to the needs of Merri-bek’s growing community.
It will continue to be a welcoming, socially inclusive space that celebrates Merri-bek’s diversity, creativity and distinct culture. Redevelopment will expand on-site green open space, for community and creative activities and help to improve health, wellbeing and community connection. It will also provide improved connection and access between the site and Brunswick Baths.
Key Council Decisions
A Strategic Framework for future use and development of the site
In August 2017, Council endorsed a Strategic Framework for the site to assist decision making on the future use and development of the site. The Strategic Framework sets out Council’s principles and priorities for the facility and is the foundation for how the site will be used beyond 2021.
- Strategic Framework for 33 Saxon Street, Brunswick (PDF 448Kb)
- Site map of 33 Saxon Street, Brunswick (PDF 647Kb)
- Precinct maps - the site's position within the wider Brunswick and Brunswick Civic and Cultural Precinct (PDF 647Kb)
In June 2018 Council endorsed the potential uses, services and features to be included in the Saxon Street multi-use community facility. These potential uses were included in the design brief for the development of the concept plans and full detail can be viewed in the 13 June 2018 Council Report (PDF 27Kb).
Updated Concept Plan (Option D)
In 2018, Council endorsed a Concept Plan (known as Option C) for 33 Saxon Street based on the Strategic Framework and a comprehensive community engagement process.
This Concept Plan showed significant redevelopment of the entire site consisting of two new buildings to house community, creative and cultural organisations along with significant commercial floorspace allocation. It was costed at $24m.
After further investigation, extensive market sounding and financial modelling of Option C, a refined concept (Concept D) has been endorsed by Council in July 2020. The intent is to deliver a less intensive and expensive redevelopment. This option proposes a newly constructed building, situated to the south of the heritage house and to the west of the gallery building.
The aim is to prepare detailed designs with a view to lodging a planning permit application in late 2021, with construction expected to start in 2023. The intent is that community and creative activity can continue to happen onsite and transition into new built form, when complete.
Key features of the endorsed Option D concept
Option D has the potential to deliver the following benefits:
- Delivery of all of Council’s endorsed community and creative uses;
- Significantly reduced construction costs;
- Greater public open space allocation;
- Retention of the existing Blak Dot Gallery building;
- Minimal disruption of Siteworks operations during construction;
- Full ownership of site retained by Council;
- A rent recovery operating model managed by skilled operator; and
- Attractive recovery project – opportunity for ‘Shovel Ready’ State and Federal infrastructure grant funding.
The Council Action Memo below provides details of the endorsed Option D concept, the associated financial modelling and details about the next steps of the project.
If you would like to discuss the site and/or have any questions, please contact the Places Team on 9240 2221 or via email.
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