CBD move hots up bushfire hub bid

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
The former CBA building on the corner of Grey and York streets is among the buildings being considered by the City of Albany to house its administration offices.
Camera IconThe former CBA building on the corner of Grey and York streets is among the buildings being considered by the City of Albany to house its administration offices. Credit: Laurie Benson

The City of Albany could sell its North Road administration building and move offices back to the CBD, as part of a bold attempt to secure the state’s $18 million bushfire hub.

The proposal is the cornerstone in the City of Albany’s bid to win the State Government’s Bushfire Centre of Excellence, which would provide high-level bushfire training and research.

If the City can secure the BCoE, many of its 380 employees would likely be based in vacant buildings across town, potentially signalling a boost for businesses around York Street.

Mayor Dennis Wellington, who hopes this proposal will set Albany apart from the competition, said securing the hub would be a major achievement.

“(It’s) only a thought bubble at the moment because we need to win the flamin’ thing but it’s the only chance we have,” he said.

Albany’s council chambers and library in the 1960s.
Camera IconAlbany’s council chambers and library in the 1960s.

Mr Wellington said technology improvements meant offices no longer needed to be clustered together in one building, making it possible to spread services across the CBD.

A shortlist of suitable land and buildings includes the former Commonwealth Bank building, a building at the top of York Street and the carpark behind the library.

The town hall, which was used on fewer than 50 days in 2018, could also receive a second wind in the mix-up as the venue for council meetings and city functions.

Albany is understood to have originally been considered an outsider for the BCoE, but its proximity to an airport and its offering of a $5.7 million administration building has thrust it back into the hunt, according to Mr Wellington.

“Our application was so much better than everything else,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes … (it’s) in the lap of the gods.”

The City’s administration moved from the current library site to North Road in 2005.

The State Government is reviewing submissions, but an announcement should not be expected at the height of the bushfire season, Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan said.

“The centre is about harnessing the best in bushfire management knowledge and experience, and has the potential to become an international centre of learning.

“Let us just focus on the job at hand now, which is managing this year’s bushfire season pushing forward with a collaborative and cohesive approach.”

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