Hub building as photographed from across Templeton St

Save The Hub! Castlemaine residents forming a co-operative

Local residents are banding together to form the Castlemaine Community Co-operative, with the goal of purchasing and preserving The Hub, the historical building on the corner of Barker and Templeton Streets in Castlemaine. The co-operative will enable community ownership through collective investment. A public meeting will be held at the Castlemaine Town Hall on Wednesday 13 September from 5:30pm until 6:30pm.

“The Hub is an iconic building in town that many people have a personal association with. We are nervous about it falling into the hands of a commercial investor whose only interest is maximising returns,” says economist and co-operative cofounder Warwick Smith. Currently for sale, The Hub hosts thirteen tenants including environmental and community organisations, small businesses, and a cafe. There is also a thriving community garden.

Co-operatives are a democratic structure that allows members of a community to come together and meet local needs. Similar models elsewhere in Victoria have allowed communities to purchase and manage assets for the benefit of the whole community.

At the Town Hall meeting, the co-operative founders will explain the concept and invite expressions of interest from potential member-investors. “Funding the purchase from community members keeps the co-operative independent from control by a bank or single investor, and ensures that our efforts prioritise the community over profit extraction”, said cofounder Angus Gratton. “At the same time we plan to offer a stable and competitive investment return in exchange for financial support.”

The founders hope that in the future this model can expand to help address other issues. Cofounder Cath Jolly explains “there’s growing concern how housing affordability is impacting our town. We believe cooperative ownership can make positive contributions to solutions too.”

“We want to start a process of community wealth building”, says cofounder Mark Esparza. “This means more local ownership, more of our money staying in the community and greater opportunity for local residents.” 

All are welcome to learn more on Wednesday 13th September, 5:30pm to 6:30pm at the Castlemaine Town Hall, 25 Lyttleton St.