Victor Harbor's new visitor centre on track to commence construction this year

SWITCH: Volunteers of the Whale Centre and Visitor Information Centre with Mayor Moira Jenkins, councillor Carol Schofield and Whale Centre co-ordinator Ben Boothby.
SWITCH: Volunteers of the Whale Centre and Visitor Information Centre with Mayor Moira Jenkins, councillor Carol Schofield and Whale Centre co-ordinator Ben Boothby.

The merging of two key community centres, the Whale Centre and Visitor Information Centre, is expected to be completed by June 2021.

To align with the changing consumer behaviour of visitors increasingly using online and digital technology to inform travel choices, the City of Victor Harbor at a Special Meeting in July resolved to consolidate the current visitor service offerings into the Railway Goods Shed, which has been the home of the Whale Centre.

The City of Victor Harbor engaged Studio S2 Architects, a South Australian architectural company who specialise in the area of visitor and tourism industry developments and have expertise in heritage buildings, to develop a draft concept for the building.

Taking into consideration the requirements of the new visitor services facility, Studio S2 Architects have provided a concept that is currently being considered for the appropriate planning approvals.

Given the state heritage status of the Railway Goods Shed, the draft concept has been referred to State Heritage with support for the upgrades provided.

To allow for major aspects of the building renovation that required more investigation after council's initial budget endorsement in July, council moved to increase the building's alteration budget to $630,000 at the October Council Meeting.

This will see works planned for future years brought forward to 2020/21.

The increase in building costs specifically relate to functional aspects of the building such as the installation of a lift, re-setting of stairs and hand rails, upgrading of toilet facilities to building code requirements, installation of fire safety equipment and services to building code requirements, replacement of roofing, insulation and heating / cooling mechanisms.

Non-essential elements of the development such as fixtures, furniture and discretionary fitting represent less than 10 per cent of the overall value of the project.

The project will be part funded through the Federal Government's Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program with a contribution of $355,740.

To facilitate the Railway Goods Shed upgrade, the building is closed to the public from Tuesday, December 1, with works to the building to commence on Monday, December 7.

During the closure of Railway Goods Shed, South Australian Whale Centre customers will be referred to the current Visitor Information Centre, while some SA Whale Centre staff will relocate to Coral Street Arts Space to answer SA Whale Centre emails and to help prepare for the visitor information service to temporarily relocate to the space in February.

The Visitor Information Centre will remain in its current location until February to serve the peak summer visitation period and arrangements are currently being finalised for the building to be sub-let.

The Coral Street Arts Space will act as the temporary location for visitor services until the Railway Goods Shed upgrade is completed.

The shuffling of premises for the Visitor Information Centre has upset some volunteers.

"We are not happy with the two moves. It will be a disaster and council will lose many volunteers doing this," Visitor Information Centre volunteer Jan Hanger said.

The new outfitted Railway Goods Shed will be called the Victor Harbor Visitor Centre, as approved by council upon advice from the Tourism Industry Council of South Australia and will retain its statewide Visitor Information Centre accreditation.

Although the majority of building works are planned to occur within early 2021, due to the complexity of the installation of a lift shaft (three levels) and contractor time frames on the lift installation, the building upgrade is estimated to be completed by June 2021, with the aim to open at the start of the 2021 whale season.