HELENSBURGH could be without a community centre for up to five years after the announcement of the closure of the Walker Street building and its eventual demolition, amid concerns relating to water and moisture.
Owner of the Helensburgh Community Centre building, Wollongong City Council is planning a replacement in a new library facility, with construction expected between 2025 and 2027.
Over the past 10 years, Council has undertaken a series of works to investigate and remediate ongoing issues of damp under the floor of the community hall. Past works have included the installation of fans and vents to increase subfloor airflow and circulation.
The recent period of extended rain has exacerbated problems within the hall and the development of significant mould. An independent hygienist’s report completed last December showed mould was within the Hall and had extended into other areas of the centre.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said Council is aware the building is valued by the community as a meeting and social space.
“However, despite our attempts to address the impacts of persistent water flow under the sub-flood area of the Hall, it continues to be a problem,” he said.
“Given the ongoing weather over the past few months, it is likely the mould is now significantly worse than when the assessment was carried out last year.
“The health and safety of the Centre’s users are our primary focus and that is why the decision has been made to close the building permanently and arrange for its demolition.
“I look forward to the planning of the replacement Helensburgh Library and Community Centre facility. Council is committed to this project, and it will now be progressed.”
Wollongong City Council General Manager Greg Doyle said many residents will be aware of the unpleasant challenge that mould can present thanks to the recent wet and humid weather.
However, the scale of the problem at the community centre was not something that could be addressed easily.
“It is a difficult decision, but we need to be realistic about this facility and the use of Council’s limited funds. Right now, we are looking very closely at plans for a combined community centre and library facility for Helensburgh and surrounds that’s planned for construction in 2025-2027,’ Mr Doyle said.
“We are best to save the funds and divert them towards a new state-of-the-art facility that this community wants and deserves.’’
Council has been working with centre users to find alternative locations to meet, most of whom have not been in the building for some time due to the COVID-19 pandemic Public Health Order restrictions on community facilities.
The centre has in the past been used by a variety of local groups for activities as diverse as playgroups, dance lessons and meetings by other community groups.
“We appreciate the local community values community spaces, and we are supporting those who have used the Centre for meetings and other activities to find alternative spaces such as Coalcliff Community Hall, the rooms for hire within Stanwell Park Children’s Centre and Darkes Forest Community Hall,’’ Mr Doyle said.
Over the coming months, Council will arrange for the building to be emptied and preparations will be made for the mould removal to make the building safe ahead of its demolition.
Once the demolition is complete, the building’s current footprint will be remediated and turned into a greenspace for the Helensburgh community.
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