The Ballarat Civic Hall was first officially opened on August 20, 1956 as a large community gathering place with two intersecting halls, capable of holding just under 2000 people indoors on a cold Ballarat evening. Over decades it was the home of rock concerts, trade shows, election meetings, exhibitions, conferences and high school debutant balls. It was closed in 2002 due to disrepair and underuse. Today the Civic Hall Site includes the city's main public library, a multilevel carpark, a small skatepark, and the Civic Hall.
The Ballarat Civic Hall Site is at 300 Mair St Ballarat, between Mair, Armstrong, Doveton and Market Streets. It is one short block from the Town Hall on Sturt Street, and less than 200 metres from the Ballarat Train Station, one hour to Melbourne.
Between 2002 and 2011 numerous proposals for the Civic Hall Site have been developed and abandoned:
In December 2011, after a series of large protests, the Ballarat City Council rejected a town planning application for a developed, $40M design by Lyons Architects that included demolition of the Civic Hall.
In 2012 a consultation process was undertaken that included an open call for community submissions and two community workshops facilitated by VillageWell. One community group proposed a participation process.
In 2013, Council voted for its Economic Development team, to develop a town planning application to demolish the Civic Hall.
In 2014, amidst high numbers of community objections and state government interest to move a large government department to the site, the town planning application to demolish the Civic Hall was suspended.
This "participation process" begins by recognising all that has gone before. After a difficult history it will aim to build trust, connection and legitimacy for something to finally happen.