Hundreds gather to save old hospital

A decentralised digital hub for government workers who live in the area is among the ideas that will be explored by members behind a community campaign aimed at buying back the old Kyneton hospital from developers.

SaveOKH campaigners will meet with state government representatives in coming weeks to gauge interest in plans for a mixed use development at the historic Wedge Street site, which has been earmarked for luxury apartments as part of a major 65-lot redevelopment.

Close to 300 people turned out to show the bluestone building some love on Valentine’s Day.

SaveOKH spokeswoman Christine Lauder said the group had been blown away by Sunday’s turnout, despite the buzz generated by a vibrant social media campaign featuring SBS newsreader Lee Lin Chin.

‘‘When you instigate an event like this, you wonder whether you’ll get 10 or 20 people,’’ Ms Lauder said.

‘‘But to get in the region of 300 really shows people’s love of the old hospital.’’

Ideas encouraged

Participants in Sunday’s event were encouraged to share their thoughts on potential uses for the old hospital.

Many shared their personal stories with volunteers and via social media, while others signed up to volunteer or flagged financial support.

Ms Lauder said the level of support proved the community did not want Hong Kong-based developer to turn the site into another housing development.

The developer has previously told SaveOKH representatives he is prepared to sell back entire site for $8 million, or the hospital building for $1.8 million.

‘‘It is now abundantly clear there is a strong community will to see this landmark building saved from suburban housing,’’ Ms Lauder said.

‘‘SaveOKH believes that the building can also be an economic and tourist asset to Kyneton.’’

Ms Lauder said support had come from a wide cross-section of the community.

‘‘It isn’t one group … it’s a diverse representation, from locals who have lived here all their lives to people who have specifically chosen Kyneton as their home.’’

Official meetings

SaveOKH will meet with representatives of Regional Development Victoria this week and is seeking briefing with other state MPs and agencies.

‘‘We want to see if there is an appetite and an ability to support a mixed use development at the site,’’ Ms Lauder said.

‘‘While we have some ideas for a mixed use project as a more sensitive use of the site, including an art gallery, digital hub, boutique hotel, gardens and scaled down residential, we’re still keen to hear people’s ideas.’’

Next on the to-do list for SaveOKH is the creation of formal project plan leading to approaches to businesses and philanthropists, grant proposals and a possible crowdfunding campaign.