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City lodges updated planning application for gallery expansion

Media release

An updated planning application has been lodged by the City of Greater Bendigo to progress the expansion of Bendigo Art Gallery, Council’s number one priority project. 

Included in the application are new artist impressions depicting the rear of the building that show the relocation of the café to the sculpture annex. The City has also submitted a separate planning application to Heritage Victoria, which has been closely involved in the development of architectural plans for the Gallery’s expansion. 

The project continues to seek a Federal Government funding commitment and the City will be applying to round two of the Growing Regions program when it opens next year. 

Bendigo Art Gallery Director Jessica Bridgfoot said the project was ready to proceed to public tender stage, subject to receiving planning approval and the remaining project funds. 

"The application will be on display for 14 days and expressions of interest for the next round of the Growing Regions program are expected to open early in 2024, so this should provide time for the application to be appropriately considered by the City’s planning department.

"The cancellation of the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games has revised the City’s timeline for delivering the project. Subject to securing the remaining funding and signing off the planning applications with the City and Heritage Victoria, it is our intention to start construction in the second half of 2025.

"Construction and delivery of this project represents a significant investment in driving economic development, building community pride, celebrating Traditional Owner culture and ultimately creating a place for all people, which was the Gallery’s original purpose when it first opened 136 years ago."

The expansion will deliver a world-class learning centre for students, second-level blockbuster exhibition space, Traditional Owner Place of Keeping for Dja Dja Wurrung artefacts, expanded access to free and collection-based exhibitions, redeveloped restaurant with a City of Gastronomy offering, expanded commercial opportunities including pop-up blockbuster exhibition shop, and accessible amenities and expanded public spaces. 

Continued rising construction costs and inflation mean the project is now estimated to cost $54M when building starts in 2025.

To date, the project has a confirmed commitment of $33M, including $21M from the Victorian Government, $9M from the City and $3M from the Gallery Board. The Gallery and City will apply for $15M from the Federal Government and seek to raise a further $6M from philanthropic support. 

Chief Executive Officer Craig Niemann said increased costs were the reality of delivering major projects in a post-COVID environment.

"Any business or organisation that is responsible for delivering infrastructure is facing the same cost pressures," Mr Niemann said. 

"This will be the City’s biggest infrastructure project to date and to manage any further cost increases, construction needs to start in 2025. The project delivers across a number of key areas including Traditional Owner culture and recognition, education, economic stimulus and environmentally sustainable design. 

"As Bendigo and the wider region continues to grow, an expanded Gallery will be able to grow with it and have a greater ability to serve the community and remain a key driver of our visitor economy. 

"We are confident of submitting a favourable application to the Federal Government."

Greater Bendigo