Mayor Jenny Dowell, Lismore Regional Gallery Director Brett Adlington and Page MP Kevin Hogan turn the first sod at the site of the new gallery.
Mayor Jenny Dowell, Lismore Regional Gallery Director Brett Adlington and Page MP Kevin Hogan turn the first sod at the site of the new gallery. Cathy Adams

Major milestone for $5.8 million Lismore project

THE first sod has finally been turned for Lismore's new art gallery.

It was a moment many people thought they may never see, and it seemed fitting it was Jenny Dowell holding the shovel in one of her last official duties as Lismore's mayor.

Art gallery sod turning: Construction of the new Lismore Regional Art Gallery has just begun.
Art gallery sod turning: Construction of the new Lismore Regional Art Gallery has just begun.

Cr Dowell had been a campaigner for the gallery for the 12 years she was a councillor, and said the sod turning made the building of the gallery "more real than any bit of paper".

She described it as a highlight of her time as mayor.

"This is a very special moment for me in the week before I step down as mayor and a truly historic occasion for Lismore," she said.

While a new gallery for Lismore has been talked about for 20 years, Cr Dowell said it was a building that was meant to be built decades earlier.

"The home of the existing gallery was only ever meant to be temporary," she said. "That was 63 years ago."

She was joined in turning the first sod by Lismore Regional Art Gallery curator Brett Adlington and Page MP Kevin Hogan, and was cheered by dozens of Friends of the Gallery members, Lismore MP Thomas George, Lismore City Council staff and councillors, Bennett Constructions and architect Dominic Finlay-Jones.

Mr Adlington said he was looking forward to putting the new building to use.

"This is great (starting construction)," he said. "What happens in the building and the people who come into it are what's important."

As well as the new gallery, housed in the revamped C Block, the Lismore Quadrangle will include a public piazza and new carpark, the Northern Rivers Conservatorium and Lismore Library.

Mr Hogan said he expected the project to attract about 300,000 visitors annually, create 27 jobs and boost the Lismore economy by $1.8 million a year.

The project was designed by Bangalow-based architect Dominic Finlay-Jones, and will be constructed by Lismore-based Bennett Constructions.

Construction of the $5.8 million project will now begin in earnest, and is expected to be completed in July next year.