No end in sight for Youth Hub delay

The Cardinia Youth Hub construction site on James Street, Pakenham. Picture: ON FILE

By Corey Everitt

Cardinia Shire’s brand-new Youth Hub on James Street has been delayed by almost three years past its original completion date after its contracted builder collapsed leaving the council as well as a local education provider thwarted by the uncertain future.

The Cardinia Youth Hub, a state-of-the-art facility in Pakenham to be the new residency of My Place Youth Centre within once complete, began construction in January 2022 to the excitement of Cardinia Shire Council and the wider community.

The hub is purposed to expand My Place’s work with local youth between the ages 12 to 25 years old, building resilience and bonds among young people, re-engaging in education and providing training and work opportunities all within a dedicated space providing training/class rooms, counselling rooms, a program/group room, hang out space, a shower and laundry facility, recording booth, computers with internet access and a roof-top recreation space.

However, it has been delayed significantly. At first by ‘adverse weather conditions’ which pushed it back several months and then most dramatically as the council’s contracted builder, Allmore Constructions, collapsed in October last year putting the project on an indefinite halt.

When the construction began, the council meeting of February 2022 listed the expected completion time to be December 2022 in the Major Projects Report.

In the same report for the latest council meeting for March 2024, the completion date was recently changed to mid-2025.

The council’s General Manager Liveable Communities, Lili Rosic explained how the general structure was still being completed as the Allmore went under.

“Prior to the contractor entering liquidation, the construction of the new Youth Hub was progressing through general structure formation with the roof top slab being prepared for concrete pour,“ Rosic said.

Rosic confirmed that a new builder is yet to be appointed, but the council is preparing to re-enter a tender process soon.

“Council is currently completing a review of the structure to ensure that any outstanding issues are documented and rectified, ahead of tendering, for the appointment of a new contractor,“ Rosic said.

This affects more than the council and their youth service provider My Place.

Only months prior to the Allmore’s collapse, Community College Gippsland (CCG) had entered into a process of acquiring a lease with the council for the current site of My Place on 5-7 Main Street.

CCG is a not-for-profit education provider, they already have a campus in Pakenham on 126 Princes Hwy where they provide education pathways for year 11 and 12 aged students to complete their secondary education or develop vocational skills.

The opening of a new site in Pakenham has been sought for a long time as they wish to have facilities to provide the same education to year 9 and 10 level students in the local area.

“From our perspective, it’s disappointing, but I’m sure it’s disappointing for all involved,” CCG chief executive officer Dale Gemmell said.

“Cardinia Shire has been very engaging with us in the delay, keeping us informed about the situation.”

As long as the James Street Youth Hub is not built, My Place has to stay where they are and CCG cannot expand.

With it still possible the completion could be delayed further, it could be a long time before CCG teaches to year 9 and 10s. Even if it does get completed mid-2025, CCG wouldn’t be able to move in until probably 2026.

“Is that a possibility? I’m not sure, it’s not certain it will be by mid-2025,” Gemmell said.

“We need to know for sure when it is set to be completed and open, so we can start the long permission process which can take up to a year.”

Rosic said services will continue as planned with support and communication to continue for stakeholders like CCG.

“My Place located at 5-7 Main Street, Pakenham, is remaining open and will continue to offer support services and group programs for young people, while the new Cardinia Youth Hub is being completed,“ Rosic said.

“Council continues to work with all stakeholders affected by the delay, including Community College Gippsland, to ensure we can support their individual service needs.“