Excitement mounts as plan to turn Albury Pumping Station into Maker Space gains momentum

A plan to turn Albury’s old pumping station into a thriving creative space has residents excited about future artistic possibilities and the chance to wander the historic site again.

Albury City Council has been working for years to turn the disused building into an art space to give a boost to the creative community.

With the council awarding a $2.9 million contract for the project this week, that goal has moved closer to reality.

Murray Arts executive director Alyce Fisher said that although the project is still in its infancy, it’s been great to see an arts space developing in the community.

“The pandemic has really highlighted that if you don’t have creatives living in your community, it’s really hard to create that sense of belonging and belonging,” she said.

“The role that creatives play in the ecosystem, and the ecology of our region, in particular, is such a driving force for place-making, community engagement, well-being [and] narration.

“It’s really good that Albury City is stepping forward and creating a new space to recognize the incredible contribution of the creative industries in this region.”

Several “unknowns” of the project

Ms Fisher said she was excited about the “world of possibilities” the project could offer local artists, including those looking to return to a studio after several years of working from home.

But she said there were still a number of unknown aspects to the project.

Albury Pumphouse is about to be transformed into a learning and creative space for artists.(Provided: Greg Ryan )

“It’s a bit isolated there, so I’d like to see…if they’re obviously going to run a bus there for people who don’t have a vehicle,” Ms Fisher said.

“It’s a bit dark at night, so it will be interesting to see what the evening offers are in this area.

“All of these things will be sorted out as we get to that stage and we still have a little construction of [the] building and things to come.”

A local Maker Space

The council’s acting department head for community and location, Karen Ford, said now that the contract for the project had been awarded, construction was due to start in October.

She said the project is expected to be completed by the middle of next year and will see studio spaces, a new hangout area and amenities put in place for local artists.

“It’s a great space for creatives,” she said.

“This is an opportunity for us to support our local cultural community coming out of COVID.”

Design image of an interior space with artistic areas and rooms, with several people gathered inside
A design rendering of some of the project’s interior spaces.(Provided: Albury City Council )

Ms Ford said the Maker Space project would give the community wider access to art facilities.

She said it could be used for a variety of individuals such as hobby and amateur artists, crafters and dabbling.

“They will be able to use equipment and resources, see professional artists and creators in action, learn from them, and have access to educational programs and workshops,” Ms. Ford said.

The council reviewed a number of reports for the project to ensure that the work respected the historic element of the building, including what was needed to restore it.

The board will be soliciting interest from those wishing to participate in an advisory board for the project soon to help determine issues such as the project’s business model and machinery needed.

The “important” pumping station in the city’s heritage

Albury and District Historical Society Vice President Greg Ryan said the old pumphouse was built in the early 1880s to supply reticulated water to the city.

He said a map by surveyor Thomas Townsend at the start of European settlement in the late 1830s also pointed out that the area was the site of the Mungabareena farm before the pumphouse was established.

As construction on the Maker Space project is about to begin, he said it was important for the council to think about the whole history of the area.

“It was an important site for First Nations people long before European settlement,” he said.

“Any future role in this building must take into account the importance of the whole area to Indigenous peoples.”

An old black and white image of the Albury Pumping Station building circa 1888
Former Albury Pumping Station circa 1888.(Provided: Albury Library Museum)

But Mr Ryan said he was happy that the fabric of the building remained intact and that it was given a new purpose.

He said it was an important place for many residents.

“A lot of people go swimming at the Water Works [the old pumphouse]went swimming when they were young…we walked past this building and admired it,” he said.

“It’s the closest we have. We saw it from the road, there was a big fence preventing access to the building.

“Here we now have the opportunity to see, smell and touch what is an important aspect of Albury’s early heritage.”

Virginia C. Taylor