Taree to get a civic heart

Got the goanna! Manning Regional Art Gallery has agreed to support the rejuvenation of Victoria Street by relocating Rick Reynolds' sculpture to the new "civic heart" being created later this year. Graham Brown, the Taree businessman who has been driving for change in our CBD is "excited".

Got the goanna! Manning Regional Art Gallery has agreed to support the rejuvenation of Victoria Street by relocating Rick Reynolds' sculpture to the new "civic heart" being created later this year. Graham Brown, the Taree businessman who has been driving for change in our CBD is "excited".

TAREE is to get a "civic heart" to inject new life into the central business district.

Street pavers, metal seats and garden beds will be removed from parts of Victoria Street and replaced with grass mounds and "funky" wooden seating is to wrap trees.

Scattered throughout the green space will be sculptures, including a three-metre goanna sculpture by Rick Reynolds that invites children to play and parents to sit. Retailers will bring their stores to the footpath and cafes will create spaces that invite people to sit, talk and work in the street.

It is ambitious and it is the outcome of a visit to Taree by placemaker David Engwicht from June 16 to June 20. In four days Mr Engwicht met with Centerpoint Aracde retailers, Greater Taree City councillors and senior staff, numerous small business owners and addressed a public meeting attended by more than 130 people on June 19.

Tidy Up Taree organiser, Graham Brown organised the public meeting with the intent of engaging as many people as possible with ideas Mr Engwicht brought to the table about how to enliven the central business district of Taree.

"It's time to move from tidying up Taree to beautifying up Taree," Mr Brown laughed.

"David said our town needed a civic heart and the community agreed, so that's the first project. David called for volunteers to drive the project and we had 80 or so people standing around saying, 'YES, YES, YES!' they want to help, they want to work on the first project and so we are going to do it in November.

"It was decided to move fast and so the first meeting will be in July."

Mr Brown said Mr Engwicht's visit had delivered a "huge win and a huge change in council."

"Council is allowing a 12-month trial that will enable our retailers to access the footpath space. It is going to develop a series of permission plans that enable businesses to do this. Normally retailers have to pay for this but for 12 months council has said it would waive fees during the trial," Mr Brown explained.

"We didn't expect this and it is a huge win and we are so happy to have secured council's support. They deserve a pat on the back for this!"

Mr Brown said the project to create a "civic heart" had captured the support of Manning Regional Art Gallery and it would move some of its sculptures to Victoria Street most notably the goanna sculpture that currently dresses the front of the gallery in Macquarie Street, Taree.

"It's a big win for the project. Director Sue Mitchell says the gallery has lots and lots of sculptures and she will be looking for other sculptures we can use," Mr Brown said.

"The plan is to get as much as possible donated and the sculptures are perfect as we work to create a funky space it has to be funky!"

Mr Brown said the window space of Centrelink had also been identified as a perfect place for an interactive display of four LCD screens that could display moving images.

"It's hard to explain but the idea is to have images that move from one screen to the next, so if it was a kangaroo on the screen, it would then hop from each screen. Obviously we need to talk with Centrelink, but something has to be done with that window space."

Mr Brown said the first planning meeting would be held on July 15.

"We have got drivers for different aspects of the project now we need to rally passengers for the work ahead. It's exciting!"

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