BACKGROUND TO HALL CAMPAIGN
Merlynston’s Progress Hall was paid for and built by the community in the 1920s but is now being left to rot and used by Moreland Council to store its Christmas decorations. The residents of this small but thriving suburb in Coburg North want to reclaim the hall for activities such as playgroups, bike workshops, film nights, markets, art exhibitions, music performances and as a community meeting space.
Timeline of Merlynston Progress Hall 3058
In June 2017 Moreland City Councillors voted to allocate funds to completely refurbish Progress Hall, with an expected opening in 2018. This followed a sustained campaign by community members over several years.
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Jan-June 2017: The allocation of funds in 2017-18 budget allows the provision for the Hall to be restored. There is great excitement that this tired hall will soon have a face lift and be returned to the Merlynston community.
June 2016: Community representatives met with Nerina Di Lorenzo, Chief Executive Officer, Arden Joseph Director Social Development and Judy Spokes Community Development Dept. Moreland Council to discuss the the funding of Merlynston Progress Hall.
June 2016: Community representatives met with Social Policy and Community Development Dept. Moreland Council and Councillor Lenka Thompson to discuss the draft of the Expression of Interest for Merlynston Progress Hall.
May 2016: Members of Merlynston community put in more than ten budget submissions to save Progress Hall
May 11th 2016: Residents attend Moreland City Council monthly public meeting and ask three questions during question time about why there is no funding for the heritage hall in the draft 2016-2017 budget. Councillors Yildiz, Tapinos, Gillies and Bolton speak in support of funding for hall restoration. Cr Hopper later contacts group to assure them she is also supportive of funding. Cr L Thompson indicates she believes in waiting for October report. Kavanagh expresses anger that Tapinos has cited funds from Oak park.
May 2 2016: Story in Leader: Cr Ratnam defended her decision as financially responsible, saying the council would this month start seeking expressions of interest for partnership opportunities… She said it would be “preemptive” to allocate money to the hall’s refurbishment until a final decision was made on how it would be used in the future… Cr Tapinos said he believed $1 million could be taken from the $6 million put in savings for the Oak Park pool project to fund the hall’s restoration.
April 2016: Moreland City councillors split over hall restoration
April 26 2016: Council meets over its draft 2016-2017 budget and five year capital works plan in which there is no mention of Progress Hall (or funding). Merlynston to receive $125,000 towards Linear Creek parkland.
February 2016: Council staff contact MSG with proposed timeline for EOI.
December 9 2015: Moreland City Council meeting:
In Question Time two residents of Merlynston ask about the Progress Hall options paper to be tabled that night. In response Cr Tapinos says he believes council should fund the restoration of the heritage asset before it deteriorates further. Infrastructure Director Grant Thorne explains discrepancy between independent assessment and council’s saying council’s is more thorough and considerate of heritage needs.
DCI50/15 Merlynston Progress Hall Options Paper
• City of Infrastructure DC/150/15
• Merlynston Options Paper D15/371373
• Attachment 2 – Preliminary Cost Estimate –
Cr Lenka Thompson moved that Moreland City Council resolve:
1. That Merlynston Progress Hall is a valued Council asset
2. To work with the Merlynston community on a medium term exercise to identify clearly defined community need for the Merlynston Progress Hall.
3. To conduct an Expression of Interest process to identify funding partners for the Merlynston Progress Hall restoration and ongoing operation.
4. To work with the preferred applicant and the Merlynston community to refine the community need component for the Merlynston Progress Hall to ensure a successful partnership.
5. That a report be presented to Council by October 2016, reporting back on the EoI outcome identifying committed funding partners, proposed funding model and the established community need.
6. That council receive a report by the February 2016 council meeting assessing the level of risk for residents of the lead contamination and measures to deal with the contamination.
7. Thank the Merlynston Sustainability Group and residents for their contribution throughout this process.
For: L Thompson, Ratnam, Davidson, Kavanagh, R Thompson, Yildiz Against: Hopper, Tapinos
Abstained: Bolton Absent: Gillies, Teti
7th December 2015: Cr Lenka Thompson contacts MSG and proposes following motion which she intends to put to council at December 9th meeting:
1. That the Merlynston Progress Hall is a valued Council asset.
2. To conduct an Expression of Interest process to identify funding/commercial partners for the Merlynston Progress Hall restoration and ongoing operation.
3. To work with the preferred applicant on a medium term exercise to identify clearly defined community need for the Merlynston Progress Hall
4. That a report be presented to Council, within 12 months, reporting back on the EoI outcome identifying committed commercial partners, proposed funding model and the established community need.
5. Thank the Merlynston Sustainability Group and residents for their contribution throughout this process.
November 16 2015: Residents meet with council staff about feasibility study / cost assessment for making Progress Hall fit-for-use. Council staff’s total project estimate $1,145,126. The independent report costed the MPH project at $600.000 ($500,000 + contingency of $100,000). Council report recommends 12 month plan to assess community need and find funding partners and if unsuccessful one of four recommendations is to sell the hall and land.
June 2015: The 2015-2016 budget is released. The 40k is referred for hall study.
Tuesday June 9th 2015: Council has a public budget priority / 2015-16 budget discussion meeting. Locals attend and speak to budget submissions.
May 2015: The Merlynston Sustainability Group makes two submissions to council on its proposed budget 2015-2016, in which Progress Hall only gets a brief mention under ‘Places and Spaces’. Council has proposed a $40,000 feasibility study into the “use and purpose” of Progress Hall in its proposed budget.
The Merlynston Sustainability Group’s submissions are:
Submission 1: Merlynston Sustainability Group would like to thank Moreland City Council and councillors for working with us over many years to return Merlynston Progress Hall to the community. We believe the Merlynston Progress Hall initiative is a worthy project under Places and Spaces. We believe the need for Merlynston Progress Hall (use and purpose) has been well established and acknowledged by the community and by Council. We request that Council change the budget statement to reflect community and councillors’ discussions-to-date to the following: Council refer $40,000 to determine what is required to make Merlynston Progress Hall fit-for-purpose.
Submission 2: Merlynston Sustainability Group would like Moreland City Council to purchase the Uniting Church site at 22 Orvieto Street. We believe that these adjourning sites provide a unique and rare opportunity for Council to develop an arts and cultural precinct for the Moreland community, north of Bell Street, in the North-East ward. Merlynston is well-placed for such a precinct as it is accessible by all City of Moreland residents by bus, train, tram and by bike (Upfield and Merri Creek paths). This active, engaged community, which has a demonstrated passion for arts and culture, also has the interest, ability and capacity to work in partnership with Council.
April 2 2015: Cr Lenka Thompson met with Merlynston residents to discuss Progress Hall report. Residents unhappy with brevity of report
March 11 2015: Members of Merlynston Sustainability Campaign present a petition to councillors. The petition was signed by 630 people. A further 280-odd people sent postcards to Mayor Meghan Hopper pressing the case for a secular indoor meeting space for the community.
At the meeting Councillor Lenka Thompson (North-East ward) put forth the following motion, which was passed.
• 1. Receive a report in time for the April 2015 council meeting presenting all documentation including heritage reports, consultant reports, media, general correspondence currently on file, relating to Merlynston Progress Hall, and setting out next steps to making the hall fit-for-use as a community meeting place.
• 2. Make the information available to the Merlynston Sustainability Group and all the Councillors.
Cr Lambros Tapinos expressed a desire to speed up the process and ensure all reports and investigations be carried out prior to the 2016-2017 budget. Cr Tapinos’ amendment was not carried and Cr Lenka Thompson’s motion was passed in the format above.
March 9 2015: Moreland Leader story ‘Historic hall upgrade back on Moreland Council Agenda’
January 2015: Save Merlynston Progress Hall Campaign meeting was held at FernArtz Studio. It was agreed by the group to run for six weeks and focus on requesting that Moreland Council allocate resources to refurbish Progress Hall as a secular indoor space for the community.
Late 2014: News of the relocation of Sussex Neighbourhood House and the imminent sale and demolition of the Uniting Church Hall (Oriveto Street) where dance classes are held make the campaign for Progress Hall more important than ever.
November 2014: The Merlynston Sustainability Group worked in partnership with Collaborative Cultures to present the second Merlynston Diverse Voices Music Festival. This was opened by Mayor Meghan Hopper and was even more successful than the first festival.
November 2014: The Care blanket was displayed as part of MoreArt, Moreland City Council’s public art exhibition and was awarded the Mayoral Recognition Award.
September-October 2014: Merlynston Sustainability Group launches a crowd-funding campaign on Pozible to raise funds for the second Merlynston Diverse Voices Festival. The Pozible campaign is successful and raises $3000 towards the event, run again with Collaborative Cultures.
12 July 2014: Merlynston Sustainability Group hosts a Christmas-in-July at St Linus Hall to raise funds to help stage the 2nd Merlynston Diverse Voices Festival. Great attendance.
June 2014: Angela Stock (local resident and artist) exhibited her Knit Merlynston Hall care blanket. Fifty crafters from Merlynston, wider Melbourne, interstate and overseas contributed knitted and crocheted squares to a massive “care” blanket that communicated how much the Hall is cared for and deserves protection. The Moreland Leader newspaper reported this as “Yarn-storming to restore Merlynston’s historic Progress Hall” October 11, 2013..The project later wins the Mayor’s award (Meghan Hopper) as part of Moreland City Council’s MoreArt 2014.
2013:The Merlynston Sustainability Group was supportive of the Progress Hall heritage over-lay and supported this at a VCAT meeting.
November 18 2012: The Merlynston Sustainability Group worked in partnership with Collaborative Cultures to present the inaugural Diverse Voices Music festival opened by Councillor Sue Bolton with over 30 artist performing on 2 stages, family friendly workshops, a street parade and over 1000 people attending. The event is pitched as a demonstration of community creativity, talent and engagement and raise awareness about Progress Hall.
October 2012: The Merlynston Sustainability Group (unincorporated) present a Draft Business Plan to council to Restore Progress Hall.
June 2012: The Merlynston Village Green project was nominated as a finalist for four awards in the 2012 Sustainability Victoria, Clean Beaches, Sustainable Cites and Keep Australia Beautiful.
July – October 2012: The Merlynston Sustainability Group began to present monthly Merlynston music concerts held in a private resident home/shop front “Welcome Shop” on Merlyn Street to showcase the suburb’s talented residents. Merlynston Sustainability Group received a $1000 grant from the Leader Local Grants to support a music festival in Bain Reserve. Collaborative Cultures approached the group with the idea of making the festival a collaborative project.
March 2012: The Merlynston Sustainability Group representatives met with MCC staff and discussed the vision for the Hall. It was proposed by MCC staff that the group prepare that a business case for revitalizing the Hall.
Late 2011: Residents present a petition to council urging the restoration of the hall, signed by those who attended the launch. Merlynston Sustainability Group & Collaborative Cultures has a joint push to gain access to Progress Hall as the arts group needs an affordable space.
November 2011: Merlynston Sustainability Group representatives met with then Mayor Oscar Yildiz, and then Counsellor Stella Kariofyllidis and Moreland City Council staff to discuss Saving Progress Hall. It was agreed the Group would work directly with MCC staff.
October 17 2011: The Moreland Leader runs a front page story- MSG launching a campaign to Reclaim Progress Hall.
October 2011: The Merlynston Sustainability Group worked to organize an event titled ‘Save Progress Hall’. This event was attended and opened by Mayor, Oscar Yildiz and over 130 locals on a wet cold day. All those present signed a petition and shared stories of their memories of the Hall and the role it played in the local community.
April 2011: Merlynston’s Progress Hall included in council report, Moreland North Of Bell Heritage study volume two (pp. 151-155) Conservation guidelines (Use) The continued use of a building is an integral part of conserving its heritage significance and one of the most effective strategies for conservation of heritage assets is to ensure that they remain in use… Unless a suitable new use is found there is a danger that the condition of the building will deteriorate further to the point that it cannot feasibly be restored. Finding a suitable new use for this building should therefore be given high priority.
2011 -2012: The Merlynston Sustainability Group worked with Moreland Energy Foundation on the project “Merlynston Village Green” which aimed to encourage residents, businesses, community leaders and community groups to reduce energy and water use and develop their version of a sustainable suburb.
2006: Merlynston Sustainability Street group was formed. (then called Merlynston Sustainability Street).
Interested residents attended a series of meetings to discuss sustainability. These meeting were hosted and facilitated by Mr Jason Cox, Sustainability Street project. In this forum there were initial discussions about regaining access to Progress Hall. Once Jason had stopped hosting these meetings, resident’s continued to meet for social occasions in Bain Reserve.
Residents sought the permission from Council to plant trees along the railway line, an activity which we can see evidence of the success today.
1971-1998: – last used as an emergency evacuation area for the bombing in Lorensen Avenue in 1998. The hall had been used for social events. In 1988 Kelvin Thompson used the Hall as his launch into state politics.
1923-1971: – As a community centre for the Progress association and a movie theatre ( the projection room is still there)
1920s: Money raised by the local community’s Progress Association to build the hall through a debenture scheme. Hall built completed in 1928.