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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 January 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 JANUARY 2017 5 NEWS in the people. It's people that make things happen. It's energising the creative will and interest and energy in others to effect change. The beauty of my position is that I'm surrounded with many talented, hard-working directors and supporters. What we do, we do collectively. The main trait of this GCM board is the unity and the respect with which we work, as well as the respect we have towards the community in general. Now that it has officially been announced, what is the next step for the Bulleen project? This is a three to five year project. Now it needs more extensive community consultation, about the types of space we need and how we will use them − how we can fit in Pronia, for example, which will be servicing the needs of the most challenged members of our community; also the aged care facility. We'll enter the consultancy phase with numerous organisations. It's early days. It's a five-year project but we're excited. How do you envisage the two buildings complementing each other? Our community needs more than two buildings. I keep telling this to people. They come and say to me "what a great project the city was, you must be very proud". And I say, we haven't even started yet. We haven't tapped into the potential that exists. To me, this is only the beginning and we'll continue to work with others to see if we can build additional community centres around Melbourne, so that we can deal geographically with the needs that we have. community facility; this achieves and meets first, second and third generation needs and that's what this facility caters for. This is why it has received so much support. It seems that you have managed to finally put a 30-year debate to rest. This is a complicated piece of land. When the people who purchased it did so, it was with eight planning restrictive overlays, from compulsory acquisition to flooding, and with only four per cent of land having zoning for usage. So we have inherited a significant problem. But we wanted to meet those challenges. And we've worked diligently with the state government, the key stakeholders, to find an outcome that I think finally, after 30 years, deals with the restrictive planning overlays that affect this land and also deals with the $3 million that will be required to build the necessary waterways on the land to deal with the objections by Melbourne Water. It took many years of preparation, working with some of the best people in the country. We aspire to excellence, that's the mantra of the GCM. We work with the best people to get the best outcomes. Did you believe in this project from the start? Absolutely. But I believe more so What is the most pressing need you have identified? There are numerous pressing needs, ranging from services to the elderly to the disenfranchised who are in need of other social services − and Pronia is doing a great job there. Then there are the education and culture requirements which need to be more innovative; as a community, we have to fund and invest in new culture and education projects. We need a strong income base to fund the university program, to fund the scholarships, to fund our schools, our composers, our artists − we need to have a strong economic base for all of that. What motivates you to keep pursuing all that? I'll tell you what motivates me − in very simple terms, the difficulties and the hard work of the first generation; of my parents and uncles and aunties who I saw grapple and deal with significant problems they encountered as migrants to this country. What motivates me is to create opportunities for our children, for the next generation. In other words, to leave something better than what we found. That is incumbent upon all of us, to leave what we have in better shape for the next generations while respecting the work that's been done historically. Bill Papastergiadis also sheds light on: • The reinstatement of Evangelismos church "Evagelismos in one of the jewels in the Community's crown. As the first purpose-built Greek Orthodox Church it is an important part of the history of both the Victorian and the Australian broader community. As it is a heritage-listed building, there are numerous statutory requirements that must be met for this building project. The reinstatement of the church will be made possible in part by insurance monies but also a considered effort in donations. A committee has been formed, led by Professor Marinis Pirpiris. We have appointed its lead architect and project manager, Costas Moschogiannis, and enlisted the assistance of Peter Paras, one Melbourne's leading forensic engineers. The initial work to make the site safe and secure has been completed. In addition, we have engaged one of Victoria's top heritage architects, Arthur Andronas. The community has submitted plans to both council and Heritage Victoria. We are currently ahead of schedule. The reinstatement will include a number of complex and interrelated elements, many of which depend on the economic support of the local community. There is a process of reinstating the interior of the church. As it was sadly completely burnt out, this will involve a significant proportion of the activity. The two elements of the interior which are of particular interest to Heritage Victoria are the ‘templo’ and the ‘mezzanine’. The reinstatement will also require new fittings and furnishing, and the community is in the process of providing all interested parties a document outlining the various way by which they may support the reinstatement. The church will also require a number of improvements, some of which relate to bringing the church to the current code. The reinstatement will also involve the construction and fitting of a new centre, which will provide the parish with an office, a small kitchenette and exhibition area. Finally, the reinstatement will hopefully include beautification of the exterior of the church with appropriate fencing." • The Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture finances "The centre is fully leased, with an annual rental of approxi- mately $1 million. This easily services the loan. The loan as publicly declared is approx $5.9 million and is easily serviced by the annual rental. In addition, we have retained an extra floor (fifth floor) which could be leased for $120,000 per annum that we have not rented. Hence the total amount of rent exceeds $1.1m per annum. This is well above what was expected. The board has been privileged to deliver such an outstanding statement of Hellenism in the city centre." • The centre's delayed finishing touches "The Community has focused on the consolidation and growth of its language classes and we are in a fortunate position of almost having filled our language classes in Modern and Ancient Greek, Latin and Greek for beginners. We have been overwhelmed by the support of the wider community with an active interest in communicating in Greek. The replicas of the Acropolis Metopes have been constructed and are in the process of being timed into the numerous activities of the Community. This will take place in 2017." Objections against committee’s Bulleen proposal While the Greek Community of Melbourne has received positive feedback about the development in Bulleen, it would seem not everyone is sold on the idea. Leonidas Argiropoulos, one of the oldest members of the community, having served 17 years on the committee, has openly objected to the proposal. In a two-page advertisement taken out by Mr Argiropoulos in Neos Kosmos' Thursday edition, he claimed that the so-called 'proposals' to develop the site in Bulleen were not in fact made with the good of the community in mind, but are rather an attempt to sell part of the development in a bid to raise funds to be put towards the $5.9 million loan taken out for the Cultural Centre in Melbourne's CBD. He recalled having made offers to assist with the development, along with other community members, in the past but says that they were flat-out ignored by the committee. The former treasurer and general Leonidas Argyropoulos (second from left) with Bill Papastergiadis (second from right). secretary said the underlying motivation behind the push to develop the site in Bulleen was that the cost of the centre had far exceeded the total that had initially been communicated to members, and that the takings from the rent were lower than those budgeted. Mr Argiropoulos said the committee had already sold most of the community's assets in order to raise money for the Cultural Centre and that the project in Bulleen was the next in line. He is encouraging members to better inform themselves about the plans and to go along to the annual general meeting being held on 5 February to discuss alternative proposals for the site.
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