Making Warrnambool’s historic St Joseph’s Catholic Church halls more welcoming was the aim of a big renovation project that opens on Sunday.
St Joseph’s parish priest Father John Fitzgerald said the project brought together three buildings on the northern side of the church to provide modern, hospitable facilities.
The three buildings “needed upgrading badly”, Father Fitzgerald said.
The church’s business manager Barry Wolff said many people had found it difficult to find the entrances to the buildings and when they were inside, found it difficult to get out.
The three buildings that have been incorporated into one include the original 1856 bluestone St Joseph’s church, a sandstone rendered building next to the early church built to be a school, and sandstone stables on the western side of the Raglan Parade site.
A concrete block scout building near the former stables was demolished as part of the project.
The church’s business manager Barry Wolff said the move to modernise the buildings came from the community and was supported by the church’s finance committee.
Consultation on the proposal began in 2011 and the wide range of user groups that met at the buildings were involved in the discussions.
User groups ranged from the scouts to a soup kitchen, a play group for children and dance groups.
Work on the project began about 15 months ago and staff took occupancy in December, last year.
A large spacious hall has been created inside the original church with many of the original church features such as its wooden cathedral ceiling highlighted.
Facilities such as a commercial kitchen and toilets have been constructed inside the rendered sandstone hall, with its high original ceiling retained above the ceiling for the facilities,
In the western end of the building, a reception area, meeting rooms, an archive room and administrative facilities have been cleverly built around features of the old sandstone stables.
Building designer Donna Monaghan said the project sought to highlight the buildings’ original architecture that had been concealed under previous alterations.
The new centre, which will be opened by Ballarat bishop Paul Bird at 2.30pm on Sunday, has eco-friendly features such as 38 solar panels to provide energy for the entire St Joseph’s site.
It also has underground water tanks to store rainwater for use in the church garden and toilet facilities. Gardens have also been planted to enhance the new centre’s aesthetics.