Art, Community, Featured

A New Identity: Collingwood Arts Precinct

March 7, 2018

From dingy alleyways turned artistic masterpieces to over sixty of the most unique galleries found in the city, Collingwood is a suburb synonymous with the arts. Alongside the captivating culture and hipster lifestyle that comes with it, are the same dilemmas faced by so much of Melbourne’s north with ongoing gentrification of the increasingly affluent and sought-after area.

Apartment buildings continue to soar above our heads, signalling for most young brunch-goers the dream of home-owning as well and truly over. However increasing prices filter out to affect the arts industry across the city, from solo artists to gallery owners and operators being priced out of the coveted location.

Collingwood Arts Precinct CEO Marcus Westbury says that by historical standards property is “incredibly expensive right now”

…a lot of the inner-city locations and places where artists have traditionally worked are rapidly being turned into apartments, [this] has meant that it is harder than ever to find a suitable and affordable space” Westbury said.

House prices shot up at the end of 2017, with the median reaching over $900,000 and a 2.8 per cent increase in apartment prices according to Domain’s State of the Market report, released late January.  Now inching terrifyingly close to Sydney rates, renting is also becoming less and less affordable, rising to a median of over $400 in December last year.

The Collingwood Arts Precinct (CAP) is designed to solve the problem faced by many small businesses and independent creatives in the industry seeking a space.

“Our role is to provide long term affordable space to artists and creative businesses to continue to operate in Collingwood.” Westbury said.

CAP is an entirely unique area for a few reasons. The extensive space is the revamped site of the old Collingwood Technical School and TAFE; the renovation has left more than fifteen separate areas to be leased out for any number of creative uses.

“The buildings have an amazing character and history to them and the courtyard in the middle is an oasis in the city.” Westbury said.

The good news for potential tenants and visitors to the site which once lay unused for over a decade, is the entire precinct has now been zoned and must be used as a creative space forever, Westbury explained.

CAP is an amalgamation of much needed government, philanthropic and community support.

“The state government has been very supportive in offering us the site and a significant contribution towards reopening it.” Westbury said.

This contribution allows CAP’s unique model as a social enterprise to remain financially secure whilst offering their spaces at below market rents.

“We have been gifted the site to do that and we are developing everything from our operating model to our tenant mix to ensure that we can deliver on that in the long term.” Westbury said.

The spaces are open to the creative community to unleash their wildest ideas until March 31st, when a temporary closure will leave us all awaiting the big reveal later in 2018.

One of the first anchor tenants, announced at the start of this year, is community radio station, PBS 106.7 FM.

“We’re really looking forward to moving in with other creative organisations and working together to make Melbourne an even better place to be a musician or music lover.” PBS General Manager Adrian Basso said in a statement on the PBS website.

The station will not be moving in for a couple of years yet, but provide an exciting starting point for what is to come.

“PBS bring a great community and a legendary reputation. They will grow their home here alongside the galleries, studios, artists and organisations” Westbury told PBS.

CAP are still on the lookout for expressions of interest for other available spaces, and in the meantime will be hosting a bunch of exhibitions and events open to the public.

“There are many events, activities and opportunities coming up over the next year or so as we get the site fully open to the public.” Westbury said.

Stay updated at www.capmelbourne.org or follow the Collingwood Arts Precinct on Facebook.

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