Harbouring a vision

ADVOCATE, 20 Nov 2014

DEVELOPMENT plans have been lodged to transform Devonport’s oldest public building from a venue that attracts graffiti vandals into a licensed cafe and tourist destination.
Murphy Investment Tas. Pty Ltd, has submitted plans to the Devonport City Council for the refurbishment and extension as a cafe of the old harbour master’s building on the Mersey River foreshore.
The proposed development would be in keeping with the site’s heritage listing.
At the moment the well-known building has become an easy target for vandals to graffiti and do other damage.
However, first-time developer Leigh Murphy, of Devonport, and two unnamed investors want to open a cafe in the front half of the compact building.
Mr Murphy said after planning approvals and the lease have been finalised it should be open in seven months.
The back half of the building would be used to showcase historic images of old Devonport precincts.
“Tourists could see how Devonport used to look,” Mr Murphy said.
Mr Murphy said he used to ride past the neglected building on his mountain bike and always contemplated its potential.
“I used to think, gee whiz, that would make a lovely cafe,” he said.
About 16 months ago he started working with architecture student Declan Vertigan on a three-stage vision.
It also includes a $3 million plan to reopen Tiagarra under a new concept.
Mr Murphy said he submitted the cafe proposal with Crown Land Services as the building’s owners.
He said the Heritage Council of Tasmania reported it had no issues with his plans.
“What I want to create is a destination and an experience, not just a cafe,” Mr Murphy said.
He said it would get the council’s Living City plan started.
He wants to have bicycles for hire, where travellers on the Spirit of Tasmania could catch the trans-Mersey ferry across, hire a bike and get a pass with a map directing to the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, Tiagarra and Don River Railway.
An area outside the cafe would be created for kids to play old-fashioned games like hopscotch and quoits.
“We’ll have a few fishing rods to use.”
Stage two of the plan involves building a replica of the harbour master building on the southern end as a fish and chip shop.
Mr Murphy was meeting with the council this week about leasing a grassed area near the old ferry pontoon to create a boardwalk.
“We want to build half a wooden boat structure that goes out three metres and comes back in under the wall,” he said.
“People can sit on the river on a stationary vessel.”
Mr Murphy said he was still finalising a 15-year-lease on the building with Crown Land Services.
Mr Vertigan said he jumped at the opportunity to work with Mr Murphy on the high profile project because of its position.
“It’s a brilliant idea,” Mr Vertigan said.
Mr Murphy said stage three involved an ambitious $3 million redevelopment proposal to turn the closed Tiagarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Museum at the Bluff into the Tasmanian Aboriginal Cultural and Devil Interpretation Centre.
Mr Murphy said it includes live Tasmanian devils and building a 9-metre high devil structure off the eastern side of the Bluff costing an estimated $1.5 million.

Mr Murphy said he already had investors on board.