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Cowes Cultural and Community Centre

The redevelopment of the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre involves replacing the existing Centre, to bring together the cultural and social aspirations of the community and draw visitors in to showcase the history and culture of the region. The new facility will encourage a range of community activities and events.

Concept Plans released

The growing and changing population of Phillip Island, together with an increasing expectation for recreation and cultural experiences, demands attention to the community facilities available in Cowes. There is strong community support for a dynamic, interactive Cultural Centre for the community.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why was the existing centre demolished before the design and almost a year before starting the rebuild?

Demolishing the facility early in the process enabled Council to arrange removal and storage of community assets and to ensure thorough site investigations are conducted before construction.

When is the rest of the centre being demolished?

Council has completed Stage 1 of the demolition. This involved the removal of the main Cultural Centre Building.

Stage 2 of the demolition, which includes demolition of the remaining buildings is anticipated to commence in September 2021.


When did Council go out to tender for the design of the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre?

Council appointed Jackson Clements Burrows Architects (JCBA) at the May 2020 Ordinary meeting

Do you have a proposed date for the commencement of work on the new Cowes Cultural and Community Centre, and a proposed completion date?

JCBA commenced in June 2020. Council is targeting completion by the end of 2022.

Are the current concept designs by Perkins going to be used as the basis for the final designs once the tender has been completed, or will the designs be starting from scratch?

Yes, the previous designs and feedback on the concept designs will inform the new design. Extensive community consultation was undertaken with stakeholders and the community over the past 5 years and this work has informed the usage requirements of the proposed new facility. In October 2019, Council resolved to adopt a new direction for the project whereby a new purpose-built facility would be developed, rather than retrofit the old, existing facility. This decision was informed by a feasibility design that demonstrated that the usage requirements identified through the community consultation could better be accommodated in a new purpose-built design. The data that has been collected from the consultation work to date will inform the development of concept design, through to detailed design and construction documentation of the new facility. Council will continue to engage with stakeholders and the community throughout the process.

Has community consultation previously been undertaken to develop existing concept design?

An extensive program of community and key stakeholders’ engagement has occurred over the past 5 years in developing the current concept design. Some of the consultation that has occurred includes:

  • The establishment of a Council endorsed Working Group comprised of representatives from seven key stakeholder groups plus four community representatives.
  • Written correspondence to every resident on Phillip Island with an invitation to review the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre concept design.
  • Distribution of over 12,000 flyers to owners, occupiers, post office boxes and non-resident owners.
  • Pop up community sessions with an overall attendance exceeding 360 people providing comment.
  • Social media posts and published media releases
Functions / Capacity

What functions are in the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre Building?

The current design houses a number of functions including:

  • Library
  • Museum
  • Theatre and associated change rooms
  • Function/meeting rooms
  • Community Kitchen
  • Visitor information/customer service
  • Café / Box office
  • Community Enterprise space
  • Gallery
  • Grand Hall
  • Amenities
  • Storage
  • Offices
  • Genealogy and Historical Society

How many seats does the theatre have?

The Theatre has 250 seats

Is there a cinema in the new Cultural Centre?

There is a 250-seat multipurpose theatre which will have the capacity to run cinema.


When is construction of the new building due to start?

Construction is anticipated to commence late 2021 and is expected to take 12–14 months.

Who is the builder?

An open Expression of Interest was undertaken in early 2021. The Public Tender Process saw 11 construction companies make submissions. While the four shortlisted builders are not based in Bass Coast, they demonstrated the capability and capacity to deliver a $19 million construction program – the largest project in our history. We also considered their experience of working with architects on the construction design. The standard tender evaluation process includes the local and social benefits, and the process is publicly available on Council’s website at

The four shortlisted builders will be asked to for further pricing submissions on completion of the design. The final builder is anticipated to be engaged in October 2021.

Will the building material shortage being faced by companies across the country impact on the cost or the size of the building?

We are closely monitoring the situation around the availability of construction material as it has the potential for wide impacts on any building project.


What is the cost of the project?

The construction cost for the new Cowes Cultural and Community Centre is $27.2 million.

Has a loan been secured for the project?

Council were advised in late March that its application for $10 million in concessional loan funding from the State Government’s Community Infrastructure Loans Scheme for the Centre had been approved. Under this Scheme, the State Government will fund half of the interest cost. Following further cuts to the Reserve Bank’s interest rate, we anticipate the actual interest rate paid by Council will be less than 1.0 per cent per annum.

What are the terms of the loan?

Council has assumed a ten-year repayment period for the Community Infrastructure loan in its Long Term Financial Plan (LTFP). This will require it to repay less than $1.1 million per annum.

Where is the rest of the funding coming from?

Council secured a grant of $2.5 million from the Growing Suburbs Fund and a further $800,000 from the Living Libraries Grant, both from the State Government. A further $5 million grant has been provided from the Federal Government through their Building Better Regions Program.

Fees and Charges

What will the fees and charges be for the new Centre?

Council is currently undertaking an operational review, which will consider a competitive fee structures compared to other similar facilities in the area, hire fees, ticketing, and merchandise commissions.

Where can I get more information or provide feedback?

To provide feedback or request further information, please contact our Major Projects Team on

Key objectives and benefits

  • The project will set new high standards in the provision of multi-use public community spaces, and in particular, deliver an accessible and functional building which contributes to best practice place making principles;
  • The new centre will be a destination building with interesting architecture, while providing service for the Council and Community;
  • Creating a dynamic and interactive place for people that is a source of community pride where groups can interact together;
  • Secure the long-term use and improve the functionality, safety and efficiency;
  • Incorporate Universal Design principles, expand and diversify the existing programs and services and improve access;
  • Support the projected growth in population and identify the local demand for cultural, artistic and community programs and services;
  • Best meets the communities’ needs giving consideration to Council’s existing strategic financial and cultural priorities;
  • Increase the lifestyle and liveability opportunities for new and existing residents and visitors to the Shire; and
  • Provide the centre point for cultural and heritage experiences and learning.

A revised concept of the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre was approved in October 2019. This concept maximised spaces for community groups, increased storage and enabled the design to function more effectively.

In February 2020, we sought tender responses for the detail design of the new facility. It is anticipated that the successful design team will be appointed in May 2020. Once appointed, the detail design of the facility will take place, which will include ongoing consultation with community groups and key stakeholders. The detail design phase is scheduled to begin in June 2020 and be completed in early 2021. Demolition of the existing centre is planned for the later part of 2020. Construction of the new facility will start in early 2021 and is expected to take 12 to 14 months.

The new Cowes Cultural and Community Centre is forecast to generate $51.8 million in benefit to the Bass Coast economy over the life of the project. The state government recently committed to the project, allocating $10 million via its Community Infrastructure Loans Scheme. The many economic and job benefits this project will bring the region ensures it will continue to progress. A new Cowes Cultural and Community Centre has been forecast in Council’s Long-Term Financial Plan. It’s location in the mid-block of Cowes will rejuvenate the activity centre and instil a sense of pride for Bass Coast whilst being the new home for many community uses and activities.