With the recent closure of Grafton’s Correctional Centre, the biggest question being asked is – what will become of the Old Grafton Gaol?
The heritage listed gaol was built in 1893, and since then the prison with its imposing and elaborate gatehouse, has become a Grafton landmark.
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said that there will be a consultation process which will involve the community, to find out what they would like to see become of the old gaol.
“I would like to think that council (Clarence Valley Council) would play a lead role in that consultation process, even though it’s not their asset, it’s an asset for Grafton and the broader community,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“The gaol has served us well for the past 127 years and I’d like to think that that site can serve the community well in terms of economic benefit, providing jobs and opportunities for the community in Grafton for the next 127 years.
“In fact the opportunities for the next 127 years, I would like to think are greater than what the gaol has provided in the past.
“So it’s open for the community to determine exactly how they want that site to be developed and of course Council needs to be involved because we’ve got permitted uses and zonings to consider as well as adjoining residents and the like, so it’s really like an open development application where everyone can have a bit of a say.
“Obviously in my mind there are some directions that are already in place. For example, the old gaol and gate into the gaol and the admin building have significant heritage value and they should of course be retained and certainly be utilised for something like a museum.
“The old wing is fascinating; it’s macabre, it’s got a lot of history and (has housed some) famous inmates and it’s got all of those things that people find fascinating – it’s literally our Alcatraz, I guess. It certainly would make a terrific museum/coffee house sort of thing. It’s right in the middle of town and in a fabulous position to provide opportunities for future generations.
“The rest of it, you’ve got the minimum-security section opposite the hospital and there’s all sorts of suggestions for what can happen with that. It could be levelled and the new hospital could be built there or that it could be re-furbished for transition housing for women and families who face domestic abuse, people who suffer from mental health (as it’s across the road from the hospital) or accommodation for people with disabilities and of course it’s got the workshop attached to it which can be utilised in conjunction with that precinct, so there’s a whole range of things that can happen with it.
“The low area where the (ag plot) garden area was, can be used as a car park for the hospital. These are not just my suggestions, but these are also suggestions that have come into my office and I’m sure we will see many more suggestions of the like and I’m really looking forward to getting a context plan out and try and get some money to develop that site so that we can benefit from it for the next three or four generations,” he said.