After more than 3(!) years of negotiation, our agreement with the Council for the use of Eltham Central Pavilion was finalised in early 2021. The negotiation has been … how shall we put it … a unique experience. This page, which was written before we actually started using the building, discusses both what the agreement will mean in the short term and how this fits into a longer term vision.
What the agreement will mean in the short term
Eltham Central Pavilion is a newly renovated building in Panther Place (go past the library, go under the trestle bridge and turn right). The renovations have more than doubled the previous floor area. The renovated building will house four organisations, namely Eltham Football Club, Eltham Cricket Club, Eltham Junior Football Club and Nillumbik U3A. The concept is that the sporting clubs will be the main users at the weekend and in the evenings, whilst we will be the main users during the days during the week.
The renovated building comprises a large shared area plus office areas for each of the 4 organisations. Our Office area is around 50 square metres, which is around 4 times the size of our previous Office at Old Eltham Courthouse. We will be opening our new Office on Monday, 1st February at 1pm. The new Office hours will then be Mondays 1-3pm and Thursdays 10am-midday during term time (note the change of time for the Monday sessions). The old Office at the Courthouse is now permanently closed.
The shared area is centred on a large room (roughly the size of Eltham Bowling Club). Importantly, this area has a moveable wall which splits the room into two rooms of roughly equal size. One half will be a classroom, whilst the other half will start off as an area for people to drink coffee and chat, either before or after their class. In some ways, this is a similar arrangement to that which pertains for our classes at the Bridges restaurant in Hurstbridge.
The classroom will be fully equipped with new audio visual equipment plus tables and chairs. It is more than twice the size of the classroom at Old Eltham Courthouse and thus, post-Covid, will be able to support much bigger classes than any of our current venues. Initially, there will be classes on Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursday mornings. In total, there will be 16 classes per week during Term 1, 2021 and obviously the size of these classes will be limited by Covid-19 restrictions.
Note that the classroom at the Pavilion will supplement our classroom at Old Eltham Courthouse, not replace it. We have no plans to stop using the Courthouse classroom (although, as discussed earlier, Covid-19 plus planned refurbishments will effectively mean that the Courthouse is not available to us in Term 1).
There are around 90 parking spaces between the Pavilion and the trestle bridge, many of which are traditionally occupied by railway commuters. To deter these commuters, the Council will be introducing parking restrictions across all 90 of these spaces. These restrictions will initially be 3 hour limits, but subject to periodic review between ourselves and the Council. There will also be some bike racks.
The Office has been made available to us at peppercorn rent. The classroom will have the same hourly usage cost at the Old Eltham Courthouse classroom. There will therefore be no adverse ongoing financial implications for the U3A.
Sharing a space with other organisations will be an interesting challenge, particularly given the likely different cultures. More specifically, how well the Pavilion works for us will depend on the protocols that we agree, and the relationships that we forge, with each of the sporting clubs, starting with the Cricket Club (Term 1 is in cricket season). For example, the building is currently really smart and really clean and it is incumbent on all of us to keep it that way.
|A map showing the location
and soon-to-be regulated parking
|A simplified floor plan||The area of parking to be regulated|
|The main entrance to the building||The main shared area||The entrance to the U3A Office|
A longer term vision
At one level, Eltham Central Pavilion simply represents for us a bigger and better version of Old Eltham Courthouse: a much bigger office; a much bigger classroom; everything new and clean. But we should be aiming for more than that.
First, it is a place for us to call 'home'
Unlike many of our other venues, we are not just renting rooms and at the mercy of our landlords. Rather, we were involved in the design of the recent renovation, have a secure tenancy and will be part of the decision-making about how the building is set up and organised. Here is a simple example: there are two small garden beds outside the main entrance and, in their wisdom, Council decided to populate these beds with agapanthus. But agapanthus are on the Nillumbik weed list so it's an odd choice. How about we set up a little garden group and populate the beds with some indigenous plants, and how about we work with Edendale to choose these plants?
Second, it will become a place for social interaction
Some of the social connections between Nillumbik U3A members are very strong but the nature of many of our venues is that they make social interaction difficult outside of classes because people effectively have to leave the venue immediately after the class. Contrast that with Bridges restaurant in Hurstbridge, where people can meet for a coffee before or after class or even stay for lunch. It is this experience that we are hoping to duplicate at the Pavilion. Post-Covid, the coffee and chatting area will seat more than 50 people. And when the moveable wall is pushed back, the main room will seat more than 100 people. And there is a commercial kitchen on the premises which we hope to have access to once the health and safety issues have been resolved. Here is an aspiration: over time, we make the Pavilion a place where our members actually want to go to socialise, and perhaps have a bite to eat, even when they don't have a class to go to.
Third, having a bigger classroom helps ease one of our major strategic problems, namely 'rollovers'
Many of our classes are over subscribed and issues therefore arise about who gets priority. If previous participants get priority (as they do when last year's class 'rolls over'), this limits the opportunities for new people to join the class, which in turn causes some frustration and angst. If, on the other hand, enrolment is on a 'first come, first serve' basis, then some current participants may be disappointed and annoyed. Having a bigger classroom in our portfolio, which we can use for our more popular classes, helps to resolve this dilemma.
Fourth, it is an interesting experiment in true venue sharing
There are a lot of venues around Nillumbik, mostly Council-owned, but many are under-used because they have traditionally been single-user venues. At the same time, there are lots of community organisations around Nillumbik, some of which (including ourselves) struggle to find venues for all of their activities. Venue sharing is an obvious solution. At one level, venue sharing means organisation X using the venue when organisation Y isn't and this is where we are starting off at the Pavilion: the sporting clubs don't use the building much during the day during the week so we will. But the aspiration has always been higher than that, namely for ourselves and the three sporting clubs (Eltham Cricket Club, Eltham Football Club and Eltham Junior Football Club) to genuinely share use of the building, working together and feeling comfortable in each other's company. If we can make this work, it will open up other possibilities for other organisations at other venues around Nillumbik.