The Bega Valley Shire has been successful in gaining $38 million for a number of projects and community building programs across the shire through Round 2 of the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund (BLERF).
One of those successful projects is the Cobargo Community Development Corporation (CCDC) which has been granted $9,611,992to revitalise the Cobargo CBD (Eastern and Western projects combined).
The CCDC is a not-for-profit amalgamation of the Cobargo Quaama Business Recovery Group and the Cobargo Co-operative Society Limited. It has five directors drawn from both companies, two appointee directors representing the community, and two skills-based directors.
"This is the best news we have received since the bushfires," said one of the directors and spokesperson of the CCDC John Walters.
"This grant opportunity will enable the complete and timely rebuild of the main street of Cobargo to restore the economic biomass of the village," he said.
Their project titled Rebuild Cobargo made two submissions which covered three proposals for the main street of Cobargo where a number of buildings were destroyed during the Black Summer Bushfires.
In total eight historic commercial buildings in the lower half of the village precinct which provided ten retail remises were lost in the main street of Cobargo which has disrupted the economic and social fabric of the town.
The grant funding is made up of three main developments and the project must be completed within a two year period, with a project completion date of no later than June 30 2023.
The three major developments included in the draft plans for the funding
The first successful proposal was the Village Square Project which would be a mixed village complex, providing the village with retail space, custom workspaces, and apartments.
The second successful proposal was the Market Hall Project which would provide the community with retail space, a café and hospitality traineeships and upskilling opportunities on the lower level.
Two residential apartments will be located on the top level.
The third successful proposal was the New Post Office Project which was put fourth due to the shortcomings of the current Post Office building.
It will meet the current requirements of a contemporary Post Office and also provide the opportunity for a residential apartment above.
The plans will aim to also improve the cohesiveness of public space in the area between all the new projects by creating laneways and pedestrian walk throughs, courtyards and green spaces.
There will also be more off-street parking made available and the opportunity for street furniture integration.
Mr Walters said CCDC has a strong ethic for stakeholder and community engagement and now that the submission has been successful they will continue to consult to refine the draft concept design.
Who will own the new developments?
The Village Square and the new Post Office projects will be 100 percent community owned assets to Cobargo managed under a blend of public benefit and return on investment criteria.
The owners of the Post Office will be under a lease agreement with the CCDC.
The Market Hall will be a mixed public and private asset, with majority of ownership retained by the CCDC. A minority ownership will be retained by the previous property owner who has invested both financially and with a proposed legally binding in-kind contribution to the ongoing management of the operations of the project.
The apartments will be leased by the CCDC with monies going back into maintenance of the buildings or rates. Any profit made by the CCDC will go back into the community through consolation with the main stakeholders and the community.
"The apartments will be reasonable market rent and that's part of the return to the community in terms of making those buildings viable economically, but it also means that we are attracting people to live back in the village," said Mr Walters.
Mr Walters said they would be prioritised for local people depending on the market circumstances when the development is complete.
"We know that at the moment there is a critical market shortage and a critical accommodation shortage for flats and units of this kind but what will be the prevailing conditions is hard to predict but always the community group will operate primarily in the best interests of the community," he said.
The grant proposal stated that the projects would ensure the village was able to continue to leverage its position as a stop point destination for travellers passing along the Princess Highway and as a popular and vibrant artisan village for tourists and holiday makers in the region.