The Gosford Challenge In November 2007 Gosford City Council launched a major long term initiative to renew and revitalise Gosford City Centre. This was in response to community views expressed strongly through Vision 2025, the NSW Government‘s designation of Gosford as the regional capital of the Central Coast, and the need identified in the NSW Government’s Central Coast Regional Strategy to create at least 6,000 new jobs and 6,000 new homes for 10,000 people in the City Centre by around 2030. Last year was one of laying strong foundations for the project now known as The Gosford Challenge. The Department of Lands (custodian of much Crown land within the City Centre boundaries) joined Council as a joint sponsor of the project, contributing funding and resources. This year, Council drew together people with the best minds and experience available to make sure that we get this right, and worked closely with the major stakeholders—government departments, landowners, infrastructure providers and specially convened community groups—to make sure all were on board. In early November 2008 Lands Minister, Tony Kelly, and then Minister for the Central Coast, John Della Bosca, joined with Mayor of Gosford City, Councillor Chris Holstein, to announce there would be ‘no turning back’, demonstrating that the renewal project had the full support of both levels of government. Together they launched the nationallytargeted Request for Proposals (RFP) to select a strategic design partner to prepare a masterplan.
The RFP was a substantial document that, amongst other things, spelt out Council’s goals and philosophy for the renewal. It was important to set the right tone for the whole project. Council’s overriding requirement was for a visionary, inclusive masterplan that clearly sets out the process by which change will occur, flowing naturally into the first ‘concrete’ steps of renewal itself. The RFP drew both national and international responses. After a rigorous review process, the Cox Group—an urban design and architectural firm headquartered in Sydney with an international client base and portfolio— was selected, and started working with The Gosford Challenge team late in the financial year. Parallel to assembling a pre-eminent design and masterplanning team, the Challenge team began investigating Council and community requirements for the renewal of civic facilities including meeting spaces, a regional library, and other potential options. The possibilities range from refurbishing existing facilities, through purchase and adaption of an existing building, to new construction on a greenfields site. Council has held preliminary discussions and explored technical issues with the receivers of the Town Centre Building (formerly known as Market Place) on Henry Parry Drive. The Gosford Business Improvement District Association, known as GBID, saw its first year of operation in 2008/09. Midway through the previous year, Council approached business people in the City about their interest in setting up a non-profit organisation with the sole purpose of enhancing the vitality of the City Centre. They enthusiastically embraced the idea and set up GBID, which commenced
operations in July 2008, with local businesswoman Deborah Warwick as chair. GBID has been building support amongst commercial property owners and business operators. It has run many events and promotions, significantly improved safety, reduced antisocial behaviour, and contributed to beautifying parts of the City. During the year, work started on the final stage of the upgrade of Kibble Park. New facilities include a modern playground, outdoor stage and revamped restaurant. Each facility will contribute to making Gosford City Centre more attractive and, in combination, encourage more people into the park. Just before year end, The Gosford Challenge team, its advisors and the Cox Group familiarised themselves with the research done through Vision 2025, and the feedback from stakeholders and community groups, to develop a succinct vision for the project. It became clear from the research that the vision was: To develop and grow Gosford as a ‘world-class’ waterfront regional city, within Greater Sydney. Council will test this vision statement with the community in the coming year. Realisation of this vision will deliver a city that all Central Coast residents will have pride in and want to visit. It will create jobs for this and future generations, reducing the number of people commuting outside of the region for work. There will be more entertainment and cultural choices, more options for education, as well as excellent health and sporting facilities—all of which will reduce the need for residents of the Central Coast to commute or relocate.