By Cam Lucadou-Wells
The first steps for the sell-off of Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre have formally started.
City of Greater Dandenong will open public submissions on its desire to sell the 1000-square-metre block at 1-9 Walker Street, Dandenong.
The public art and open space at the site’s northern side would be retained by the council.
It makes way for a contemporary gallery housed in a refurbished ex-Masonic Lodge in nearby Mason Street.
The council has provisionally dubbed the new venue ‘Dandenong New Art’.
A ‘special committee’ of mayor Angela Long and councillors Jim Memeti and Bob Milkovic will hear and report on the public submissions.
Cr Memeti said councillors recently endorsed a policy of selling-off old buildings to create new facilities such as the gallery and Dandenong Community Hub.
Under rate-capping, the council needed to somehow raise the necessary revenue, he said.
One way was getting rid of several buildings “past their use-by dates” that were costly to maintain.
This strategy was preferred over selling off parkland, Cr Memeti said.
“The council have made a decision that some of the older buildings aren’t viable to hold onto.”
A council report stated that the Walker Street building and its car park was “surplus to requirements” due to the Mason Street gallery.
In a letter to Star Journal last week, former councillor Matthew Kirwan argued the “short-sighted” sale left its community arts tenants at Connections Art Space without a home.
The new gallery would be an “exciting elite destination regional gallery” but without a dedicated space for community arts.
“The homely Walker Street Gallery should not just be kept for Connections Art Space but also for future generations of Greater Dandenong residents that want to have art classes, form arts and craft related community groups in an approachable community setting.”
Greater Dandenong community services director Martin Fidler said the council was working with Walker Street Gallery tenants on their relocation.
In 1988, the council bought the Walker Street site from the Country Fire Authority for $920,000 for the purpose of setting up a gallery.