By CASEY NEILL
Dandenong’s former masonic hall will become a regional arts centre.
Councillors approved a contract to buy 5 Mason Street from the Urban Renewal Authority Victoria at their Monday 8 August meeting.
Cr Peter Brown said this was the first step in a project the council had committed to for several years.
“It will be significant for the revitalisation of this part of Dandenong between here and the station,” he said.
“A heritage building is going to be renovated, it is going to be refurbished and it will be a new arts centre.”
Cr Angela Long has been associated with the former Freemasons headquarters for some time.
“My husband was there for over 20 years before moving to Hutton Road, Keysborough,” she said.
“I remember that with fond memories.
“I’m pleased that we’re going to retain it and have it as an arts centre rather than have it demolished.”
Cr Jim Memeti said he looked forward to the building being brought back to its heyday.
“It’s probably one of the oldest buildings that I can recognise in our city,” he said.
“When there’s an old building, it doesn’t mean we should knock it down.
“I think we should preserve more buildings.”
Cr Matthew Kirwan said Dandenong needed a major art gallery to truly make it a destination and regional capital.
He said there were many arts programs but the lack of a significant physical building led people to believe the suburb was inactive in the arts arena.
“Also, with the opening of our new council building, Halpin Way felt rather empty,” he said.
“There was no significant destination between the Dandenong Railway Station and the new Dandenong Civic Centre.
“The proposed new gallery will not only close the gap in terms of a regional art gallery – with three times the exhibition space of the current gallery – and make a physical statement that arts is important to this city, but also further activate the space.”