Push needed for community-focused complex

An artist’s impression of The Gathering Place, the community-focused complex planned for Te Awamutu’s Mutu St.  Fundraising is at a crucial stage.

Progress on building a $3.3 million regional community complex in Te Awamutu has reached a critical stage, with much said to be hinging on the success of upcoming discussions with key players.

Those behind the development of The Gathering Place hope talks over the next few weeks will provide impetus to the final wave of fundraising, meaning work could start on building the multi-functional community complex at 80 Mutu St (St Andrew’s Presbyterian) by the end of the year.

The proposed complex seeks to serve Te Awamutu, its surrounding communities and the greater Waipā region. Flexible spaces within a single building of 1086m² will incorporate an auditorium seating up to 150 people, seminar room, hall, commercial kitchen, hub area, youth centre, smaller meeting and counselling rooms and administration area.

The building would offer wheelchair accessibility to all areas, and its earthquake-proof design means it could be an important community gathering point in the event of an emergency.

The total project was put at $3.3 million.  St Andrew’s Church has already raised $1.176 million through funds held, donations and pledges. The call now is for community funders and groups to put in $1.8 million. When total funds raised reach $2.6 million the church will sell the old hall property, and work can finally start.

St Andrew’s enjoys strong community relationships and is already used by groups keen to do more if the proposed complex is finished.

The project is being led by retired banker and convenor of the property planning committee Ray Miller, and the church’s minister, Rev Ron Bennett.

Ron said the committee had held several public presentations and other events to start the ball rolling, but there has been significant fallout from Covid-19 pandemic.

“Major funders had to divert their funds and this has hit us hard. Had we been able to stick to our original timeline, we would be well into the build at this stage,” he said. “If we don’t shore up funding from the community we will have to revisit the plans. That would likely result in a smaller complex which won’t have the same benefit to the wider community as the current plans do.”

Ray echoed the call for renewed community input. “Without it, some of the rooms will have to go. We would potentially have to downgrade the wooden sprung floor and commercial kitchen, which would limit the way in which the facility could be used. We can also lower the cost of the project by over $450,000 by reducing the building structure from CAT3 level and scrapping the requirement for up to 62 on-site carparks. We will have to make that call within the next six months.”

Ray said Te Awamutu lacks the type of flexible facility the complex would offer. St Andrew’s already receives regular enquiries for venues for seminars and other events and can’t currently meet that demand. “The proposed seminar room will be ideal for a range of meetings.”

They envisage the complex would be used by community groups, and for weddings, funerals, family celebrations and business gatherings.  Both men said local businesses would benefit from the development as most of the contractors earmarked for the build were from Te Awamutu.

Ron said: “We want to remain encouraged as to where we are at, and we are doing our best to ensure that it happens.”

More detail, and information on how to donate is through the website: www.thegatheringplace.org.nz.

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