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Old Library tenancy move

The Old Library on Greytown’s Main Street may soon have permanent tenants again after South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] decided to seek expressions of interest [EOI] from businesses and the community wishing to enter into a long-term lease in the new year.

Originally constructed in 1891 on West Street in Greytown as a Masonic Lodge, the council-owned building relocated to its current site in 1979 and has been available for community and retail purposes since 2007.

Its last long-term tenant was interior design store The Design Library and it is currently occupied on a temporary basis by Greytown Artisans, a creative collective and retail gallery.

The public process to find a new permanent commercial tenant for the building was temporarily paused by council officers this year at the request of elected members to give “time to consider community uses of the building”, according to the interim chief executive’s report to a meeting of the full council dated November 22.

At a meeting of the Infrastructure and Community Services Committee [ICSC] on 15 November, Councillor Bosley, artist Tatyana Kulida and the Greytown Artisans each presented separate ideas for community uses of the building.

In his report to the committee, Bosley described “converting the old library into a versatile community hub” as an opportunity to face the “challenges related to dwindling public spaces, community engagement and cultural vibrancy” and create “a thriving community space.”

His ideas included a multi-functional community hub, a technology centre, green spaces and community gardens, and a cultural and heritage centre.

As a retail space, the building nets an annual rental income for the council of approximately $27,000, however, “no one’s ever really made a go of it in there as a retail space”, Bosley said.

He considered alternative uses such as those he pitched may result in revenue equal to, if not more, than the current annual lease.

The ICSC received Bosley’s report, and made recommendations for council officers to investigate short-term uses of the Old Library building and develop options to be included in the long term plan 2024/2034 consultation next year.

At the council meeting on November 22 to decide on recommendations from the ICSC, the mayor, Martin Connelly, moved an amended recommendation to seek EOI, noting “there were resolutions relating to [the Old Library] passed at the [ICSC] for inclusion in the report, but had been missed” due to “an administrative error”.

The council meeting minutes do not include reference to developing options for the building as part of the LTP process.

In an email to the Times-Age on the apparent discrepancy in the minutes of the two meetings, Bosley said his understanding from both the ISCS and the full council meeting was that “officers were to explore options for the building, beyond commercial tenancy, as part of the LTP and that calls for expressions of interest are to be in accordance with that proposal.

In the meantime, the building was to be advertised as a venue for hire, so that we may receive some income from it while the debate is had.”

“It saddens me to see that this is not reflected in the minutes, and that calls for commercial expressions of interest are to be part of the document in the new year. My expectation is that the LTP process will continue and we can find better ways to use the Stella Bull building that will benefit not just the Greytown community but all the South Wairarapa, and not a self-serving commercial tenant, as is reflected in my Members Report.”

James O’Connor, manager of partnerships and operations at SWDC, said “any interested party will be able to submit their EOI for consideration – these could come in the form of community-led initiatives such as the examples Cr Bosley provided in his paper, or commercial initiatives.”

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